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Chittenden Locks and Fish Ladder

Visitor Information - Chittenden Locks and Fish Ladder


chittenden locks

Chittenden Locks

© Betsy Malloy 2004

  • Hours: Grounds open daily
  • Reservations: Not required
  • Cost: Free
  • Location:
  • How Long: Allow about an hour
  • Best Time to Visit: Any time, but the locks are busiest on weekends
Built in 1911 to link salty Puget Sound with fresh-water Lake Union and Lake Washington, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, also known locally as the Ballard Locks, are a favorite with locals and visitors alike. You'll usually find a small crowd gathered to watch the constant parade of sailboats, motorboats, tugs, barges and yachts passing through.

The Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Garden, an English-style garden filled with more than 500 species and 1,500 varieties from around the world blooms just outside visitor center.

At the Fish Ladder, a 21-step water "ladder" allows fish to swim upstream or downstream on a gradual incline, bypassing the locks. Adult salmon return from the sea from June to November, steelhead salmon return to spawn from January through April, and young salmon make their way out to sea in May and June. An underwater viewing gallery lets visitors watch the fish from underwater.

] Free guided tours are given from March 1 through November 30. Call the Visitor Center at (206) 783-7059 for tour times and additional information.

Take care to keep small children away from the edge of the locks. While strollers are allowed, the winding and somewhat narrow walkways make them hard to maneuver. Leave them in the car if you can.

Pets are allowed here as long as you keep them on a leash.

Getting to the Locks

Lake Washington Ship Canal and Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
3015 NW 54th Street
Seattle, WA 98107
From Downtown Seattle, the locks are about a 15-minute drive away. Take Denny Way west and follow it around a curve, where it becomes Elliott Avenue. Elliot Avenue turns into 15th Street. Follow it north across the Ballard Bridge and take the first exit, turning left and following the signs for the locks. Turn left onto Market Street at the first traffic light and follow it to a "Y" intersection, taking the left fork. The entrance is about 100 yards on the left after you pass the Y.

A limited number of free parking spaces are available at the entrance, with a three hour limit. Posted signs warn that you should take care with your valuables here, and be sure your car is locked.

You can also visit the locks on an Argosy Cruises tour, but you won't be able to get off the boat to see the gardens or fish ladder.

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