Ballard Locks - A Seattle Attraction
These boat/ship locks are the busiest in the United States

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks are a complex of locks that sit in the middle of Salmon Bay, part of Seattle's Lake Washington Ship Canal. They are known locally as the Ballard Locks after the neighborhood to their north. (Magnolia lies to the south.) from Wikipedia


The locks serve three purposes:

  • To maintain the water level of Lake Washington and Lake Union at 20.6 feet above Puget Sound's mean low tide.
  • To prevent the mixing of sea water from Puget Sound with the fresh water of the lakes known as saltwater intrusion
  • To move boats from the water level of the lakes to the water level of Puget Sound, and vice versa

The complex includes two locks, a small (30 x 150 foot, 8.5 x 45.7 meter) and a large (80 x 825 foot, 24.4 x 251.5 meter). Using the small lock when boat traffic is low conserves fresh water during summer, when the lakes receive less inflow. Having two locks also allows one of the locks to be drained for maintenance without blocking all boat traffic (pictures of the drained large lock are located in the Canal lock article). It also includes a (235 foot, 71.6 meter) spillway with six (32 x 12 foot, 9.8 x 3.7 meter) gates to assist in water-level control, and a fish ladder is integrated into the locks for salmon migration.

The grounds feature a visitors center, as well as the Carl S. English, Jr., Botanical Gardens.

Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the locks were opened on July 4, 1917. They were named after U.S. Army Major Hiram Martin Chittenden, the Seattle District Engineer for the Corps of Engineers from April 1906 to September 1908. They were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
The Locks are the most popular destination along the Lake Washington Ship Canal. They are made up of 2 navigational locks, a dam and spillway, a fish ladder, a botanical garden, and a regional visitor center. The locks allow vessels to pass from fresh water Lake Washington, into the salt water of Puget Sound. An amazing place and an amazing engineering feat. The visitor center operates under two seasonal schedules, winter and summer. Winter hours (October 1 through April 30) of operation are from 10 am to 4 pm, closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Summer hours (daily, May 1 through September 30) are from 10 am to 6 pm. Free guided tours are provided from March 1 through November 30. Call the Visitor Center at (206) 783-7059 for tour times and additional information.

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