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Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

Ballard Locks
Boats waiting to enter the Locks

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, also known as the Ballard Locks, is one of my favorite places take out of town guests. I enjoy visiting it on my own throughout the year.

Several fresh water lakes surround Seattle; Lake Washington to the East and Lake Union to the North. Lake Union and Lake Washington are connected by the Montlake Cut and Portage Bay. Lake Union is very interesting. It was named Lake Union by one of Seattle founding fathers, Thomas Mercer who predicted that canals would connect the Puget Sound to Lake Washington via Lake Union. This waterway is called the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

Lake Union is serves several functions in the daily life of Seattle. Boeing started production on its shore in 1916. Today along the shores you can find several shipyards, public parks and houseboats. The houseboat where where "Sleepless in Seattle" was filmed is on Lake Union. It also is a great place for recreation; early morning rowing crews, kayaking lessons and rentals from the Northwest Outdoor Center and summer evening sailings. It is also the location of Kenmore Air where you can take a seaplane to Victoria or the San Juans.

To connect Lake Union and Lake Washington with the Puget Sound, a set of locks were build in 1917. The locks also protect the canal from mixing of saltwater from the Sound with the freshwater of Lake Union and Lake Washington. They also provide a route to the sea for many boats - summer pleasure boats bound for the San Juans to working fishing boats bound for Alaska.

In addition to the engineering wonder of the locks, there is a fish ladder where you can view salmon as they swim up stream to breed in the streams supplying Lake Washington. The charts will help you identify which type of salmon are currently migrating through the ladder. Follow the Salmon medallions in the sidewalk to fish ladder.

Another one of my favorites at the Locks are the surrounding gardens. The Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Garden is a wealth of interesting plants. The garden is a unique micro-climate due to its proximity near the water. The gardens contain several trees not normally found in the Seattle area such as Palm Trees, Princess Tree Paulownia tomentosa and Mexican pines. You can find a guide to the trees in the Visitors Center. There are also interesting perennial beds, rose gardens and fuchsia display.

The Locks are located on NW Market and 30th Avenue NW just west of Ballard.

View Hiram M Chittenden Locks in a larger map

Here are a few recent photos:

Ballard Locks
Sailboat entering the Locks

Ballard Locks
Tying up before riding up in the locks

Follow the salmon to the fish ladder
Follow the salmons to the fish ladder

Fish Ladder at Ballard Locks
Watching the salmon swim upstream

Garden at Ballard Locks
Gardens at the Locks

Roses in bloom at Ballard Locks
Lovely roses in bloom

Gardens At Ballard Locks
Tree lined garden path at the Locks

Lamp Detail at Ballard Locks
Lamp Detail

Related Posts:

  • Photohunt: Locks
  • Photohunt: Water

Comments (5)

Nice photos! If I ever get back to Seattle, I would like to visit the locks again so I can finally figure out just how they work.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Marta, great post. First, of all I love that movie, Sleepless in Seattle. Thanks for that interesting bit of movie trivia. This is such a great place. I think the gardens are beautiful and I love the viewing tanks to watch the salmon swimming upstream.

Thanks so much for sharing one of your favorite spots. Have a great day today!

I visited those locks many years ago with a friend from the area, and he didn't provided any of the information you just did--thanks. I love the picture of the lamp detail.

I've been to Seattle several times, but never visited the locks. They will be 1st on our list next time. Great pictures, Marta.


Nice! We loved our visit to the Locks last year.

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