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Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, Ballard, WA

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, also referred to as the Ballard Locks, connects freshwater Lakes Washington and Union to saltwater Puget Sound via Salmon Bay. The two-lock system is the busiest in the United States with about 50,000 vessels going through the system each year. Of interest, many of the boats used in the Alaskan Fishing Industry also pass through the locks as they head to the Bering Sea to fish and when they return after each fishing season is over for repairs and rest. The area has a fishing ladder visitors can watch as salmon make their way up Salmon Bay to spawn. You can also watch as sea lions swim around in search of a meal. The area is typically quiet even though it attracts over a  million people a year and is one of the most heavily visited places in the Seattle area.

The Locks

There are two locks: a small one and a large one.

Fish Ladder


I first visited the ladder in the summer of 1993 and was able to watch salmon go through it, but this time, the lights inside the viewing were off and none of the salmon species were in season, but checking out this and the area was a great way to spend part of an afternoon between my walk from Fishermen’s Terminal and the city of Ballard. 

There are three types of salmon running through the fishing ladder: Sockeye, Chinook, and Coho. The sockeye come through the early part of summer from mid-June to mid-July. The chinook goes through in August and the Coho arrives in September. On average, up to 100,000 salmon or more pass through the fishing ladder as they make their way to spawning grounds upriver.


Carl S. English, Jr. Garden

Grab a book before heading into Ballard for a little late-night reading while visiting the area.