Ballard Locks

Who doesn’t love tug boats? This adventure is perfect for kids.  You can find everything from giant tug boats to elegant sail boats passing through the locks. Watch a ship as large as 760 feet long or a boat as small as a canoe pass through the Locks.

Officially known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. The locks, more popularly known as the “Ballard Locks,” opened in 1917. The Ballard Locks serves several purposes.  They regulate water levels, prevents salt water from entering Lake Union, allow passage of water vessels between the Lake and the Puget Sound, and provides a fish ladder for salmon.

How does the lock work? I’m glad you asked. A water vessel enters a lock. The gates close and the lock fills or drains depending on the water level between the Lake and the Puget Sound. The water level can be increased or decreased by up to 26 feet.   The whole process for a vessel to get through the lock takes about 15 minutes. Over 40,000 vessels pass through the locks each year.

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Pedestrian are allowed to walk across the Locks on a catwalk.  This walk provides scenic views.  Once across the Locks you can enter the viewing room and watch for fish swimming passed in the fish ladder.

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Keep your eyes peeled while touring the Ballard Locks.  There are harems of seals that like to hang out by the Locks.

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After you’re done touring the Locks enjoy a picnic at the adjoining Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden.  I visited in January, so the garden was fairly sparse.  Just a few blossoms peaking out. The cold weather did not deter the Canadian Geese. You will find them throughout the garden.

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Admission is free.  Pay parking is available at the entrance, but street parking can be found if you are patient. During summer the Garden is host to a summer concert series.  As of today, they have not updated the calendar to 2018, but Check for updates at Ballard Locks Summer Concert Series.

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