|Lake Washington Ship Canal, Ballard Dam, Locks
and Fish Ladder in Seattle
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A view east of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
The fresh water levels in Lake Washington and Lake Union are at least 20 feet higher than that of sea water in
Puget Sound. This required construction of the complex of a dam with Spillway and Ballard Locks at the west
end of Salmon Lake for the boat to go between the sea water and fresh water with 20 feet difference in water
The north side of the dam has two locks in parallel for boats to go between sea water at lower level and fresh
water at 20 feet higher level, a set of narrower locks for smaller boats and a set of larger locks for larger boats
or many boats during busy periods.
Furthermore, there are several species of salmon and steelhead trout migrating between Pacific Ocean, Puget
Sound, and fresh water in Lake Union, Lake Washington and several fresh water rivers and creeks feeding into
Lake Washington. So a fish ladder with 21 steps or “weirs” is also constructed in this complex to allow
spawning fish to climb from sea water side up to the freshwater side. Young fish, or “smolts” then return down
through the fish ladder or the locks out to Puget Sound.
The neighborhood north of this canal is Ballard and the neighborhood south of this canal is Magnolia in Seattle.
The Ballard Locks carry more boat traffic than any other lock in the US, and the Locks, along with the fish
ladder and the surrounding Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens attract more than one million visitors annually,
making it one of Seattle's top tourist attractions.
On September 20, 2017, we came to visit a friend-couple in the suburb of Seattle and had some time left for
sight seeing in or near Seattle. So, on the afternoon of September 21, 2017, we came to tour the Lake
Washington Ship Canal and its associated Ballard Dam/Spillway, Ballard Locks (also known as The Hiram M.
Chittenden Locks) and the Fish Ladder.
On the south side of the canal is the walk path with guard rail. We parked our car at the small and free parking
lot at the tiny Commodore Park located at 3330 W Commodore Way, Seattle, WA 98107. From the small
parking lot, following the pathways down the hillside will afford the visitor with great views of the Lake
Washington Ship Canal. Then we walk on this walk path for a short distance (15 minutes or less) going east to
reach this complex of Ballard Dam/Spillway, Locks and Fish Ladder. (There is a larger paid parking facility on
the north side in Ballard.)
A walk path at the dam for pedestrians to walk across the canal, with swinging walkways on the tops of the
two doors of the two locks (small and large) to complete the walk path between the north shore (Ballard) and
the south shore (Magnolia) of the ship canal.
A view west of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle. It is an 8 mile canal constructed by U S Army Corps
of Engineers under the command of Army District Engineer, Hiram M. Chittenden, to provide navigable canal
between Lake Washington, Lake Union and Puget Sound in Seattle. The construction started in 1906. The
canal officially opened for boat traffic on May 8, 1917.
Many visitors are looking at boats in the small locks and how the locks work for the boats to go between lower
sea water level and 20-foot higher fresh water level.
A boat coming from Puget Sound on sea water side is entering into the small lock.
Zoom in for a closer look of the boat on the sea water side entering into the small lock.
The control tower of the locks then open a valve to let fresh water enters the lock at the bottom to raise the
two boats from the lower sea water level up about 20 feet to the fresh water level of Lake Union and Lake
After the water level in the locks is raised to match the fresh water level, the lock door on the fresh water side
opens and the boat is leaving the locks to go into the fresh water side of the canal as shown on the movie clip
at the following YouTube website:
Two boats in the small locks. Two swing doors, in front and behind these two boats, then close to lock the
The locks are also a critical link for salmon and steelhead heading upstream to spawn. A fish ladder with 21
steps or “weirs” allows spawning fish to climb from sea water side up to the freshwater side. Young fish, or
“smolts” then return down through the fish ladder or the locks out to Puget Sound.
After watching the Ballard Locks and boats in action, we then came to this underground room with windows on
the side of fish ladder to watch salmon in action in the fish ladder. The fish ladder is on the south side of the
View from the opposite direction. Visiting hours for the locks and surrounding garden is 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
year-round. The fish ladder is open 7 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. year-round. Admission is free.
Salmon in the fish ladder return from Pacific Ocean to go back to their spawning fresh water rivers or creeks
that flow into Lake Washington. Fall season is the right time to come here to see returning salmon running up
the Fish Ladder.
The best time to see large, spawning king salmon is in mid to late-August. For coho salmon, late September.
For (red) sockeye, the month of July. And for steelhead trout, late February through March.
Tour of Boeing Assembly Plant For Boeing 747, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner
After finishing touring Lake Washington Ship Canal, we drove north to Hilton Garden Inn Seattle North/Everett
located at 8401 Paine Field Blvd, Mukilteo WA 98275 for the night of September 21. This Hilton Hotel is just
across the street from the Visitor Center located at 8415 Paine Field Blvd., Mukilteo, WA 98275 for Boring
Tour. Next morning on September 22, 2017, we just walk across the street from the Hilton Hotel to the Visitor
Center for the 90-minute Boeing Tour.
The Boeing bus took us from the Visitor Center to the massive Boeing assembly plant where many Boeing
747, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner are being assembled. This Boeing factory is immense, huge, enormous,
awesome, monstrous, and breathtaking. We had to take a bus to go between different parts of the plant
because, yes, it really is that huge. I think this is the type of place you definitely want to visit at least once. It
is about 24 miles north of downtown Seattle.
However, no cameras, cellphones, iPad, purses, backpacks, food and drinks are allowed in such Boeing
factory tour. But free lockers are provided at the visitor center for visitors to store all their recording devices.
So, I have no pictures to show for such breathtaking Boeing tour.