""Ballard Locks" (Hiram M. Chittenden Locks)" Top 5 Page for this destination Ballard Locks Tip by glabah

Ballard Locks, Seattle: 24 reviews and 54 photos

  "Ballard Locks" from Carl English Botanical Garden
by glabah
  • "Ballard Locks" from Carl English Botanical Garden - Seattle
      "Ballard Locks" from Carl English Botanical Garden
    by glabah
  • construction barge passing through "Ballard Locks" - Seattle
      construction barge passing through "Ballard Locks"
    by glabah
  • Ballard Locks small locks section for small boats - Seattle
      Ballard Locks small locks section for small boats
    by glabah
  • visitors watch barge go through "Ballard Locks" - Seattle
      visitors watch barge go through "Ballard Locks"
    by glabah
  • main building at "Ballard Locks" - Seattle
      main building at "Ballard Locks"
    by glabah

All of the signs directing you here will say "Ballard Locks" and pretty much anyone you ask for directions will use the term "Ballard Locks", but the official name of this water transportation link between Lake Washington and Lake Union and Puget Sound is actually the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.

As the name implies, the locks are located in the Ballard area of Seattle, which is north of downtown on the other side of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Constructing this canal created a short link between Puget Sound and Lake Union in 1916, although the official opening was in 1917.

There are two sections of the locks: one for small craft and one for larger vessels.

One unique feature of the locks are the walkways along the top of the lock gates. These allow visitors to the facility to walk between Magnolia and Ballard, and completely around the locks area. It is possible to see the walkways on top of the locks in photo 1 and photo 3. It is a popular place for people to come and simply watch the ships go through the locks. Thanks to the walkways and fences to keep people out of harm's way, it is possible to watch the locks work in a very close setting: ships are tied and locked only feet away from the visitors.

If you are using the bike path that uses this route as a connector between Magnolia and Ballard, be aware that you are supposed to walk your bike while in the locks area. It is very crowded with people and someone on a bike would not be a good mix with the traffic flow here.

There are parks on the north and south side of the locks: on the north side you will find the small but very attractive Carl S. English Jr., Botanical Gardens, while the south side features Commodore Park. Both parks feature grass terraces that allow visitors to view the ships and boats in the locks.

A fish ladder is located on the south side of the locks, and it is possible to go into an under-water viewing room to watch the fish pass through here. Winter months apparently see much less fish through the ladder, but I found the number of fish at pretty good levels in August.

There is an indoor visitor's center that is much less visited than watching the locks (why see static diplays about the locks when you can see the real thing?) but feature some good historical information about the locks that may be useful to keep in mind.

See also:

Ballard Locks Visitor's Center and some of its displays

My Carl English Botanical Gardens tip

My Commodore Park tip (this park is on the south side of the locks, and while maintained by the city of Seattle is basically part of the Locks complex, and provides viewing from the south side of ships entering the locks).

How to Get Here: From the Ballard area, head west on Market Street until it branches into two one way streets. The Ballard Locks parking area is one block west and one block south of this division in the road. Bus routes #17 (from downtown Seattle) and #44 (from the University District) are the two most frequent bus routes that serve the area. It is also a fairly easy walk to get here from the main Ballard business district, though much of the route is next to busy Market Street.

Address: 3015 NW 54th St., Seattle, WA 98107
Directions: from the downtown Ballard area, go west on Market Street and follow signs to Ballard Locks. Bus routes 44, 46 and 17 serve the stop closest to the entrance.
Phone: (206) 783-7059
Website: http://www.nws.usace.army.mil/PublicMenu/Menu.cfm?sitename=lwsc&pagename=mainpage

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Was this review helpful?

  • Updated Feb 17, 2012
  • Send to a Friend
  • Report Abuse



“Do something every day that scares you - even if just a little bit.”

Online Now


Top 1,000 Travel Writer
Member Rank:
0 0 2 0 5
Forum Rank:
0 0 0 5 5

Have you been to Seattle?

  Share Your Travels