Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

Watch fish travel upstream, see boats head out to sea and explore quiet gardens at canal gates that remain a crucial part of Seattle’s waterways.

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks connect neighborhoods usually separated by the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Also known as the Ballard Locks, these gates help boats using the busy route to move between different water levels as they journey in and out of Seattle. Wander around lush botanical gardens and spot migratory fish at the locks.

Completed in 1917, the locks were designed to aid travel along the canal that links the fresh water of Lake Washington and Lake Union to the sea-level salt water of Puget Sound. Today, around 100,000 boats pass through the gates every year.

Cross over the lock gates on the footpaths that run along them, looking westward for views of the Puget Sound. These paths are commonly used by local joggers and strollers. Witness the water levels changing as the gates open to allow boats to pass through.

Visit the fish ladder, where salmon swimming upstream climb to the fresh water of the canal. Glass walls enable visitors to see the fish clearly as they swim past in droves. Different species appear throughout the year, but July to September is the main salmon spawning period. Look carefully and you might spot sea lions chasing down their prey during these months too.

Lounge around in the arboretum of the Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Garden. Observe boats drifting slowly past and find a shaded spot to enjoy a picnic. Search for rare specimens among the diverse plant life of the garden. The on-site visitor center features interesting displays and exhibits about the different aspects and functions of the locks.

Find the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in the neighborhood of Ballard, west of Fremont. Buses from Downtown Seattle and Queen Anne run to a stop directly outside the locks. Drivers can use metered parking at the north main entrance gate. The gardens, fish ladder and locks are open daily and admission is free.