Chittenden Locks

Hiram M Chittenden Locks, Lake Washington Ship Canal, Ballard, Seattle, Washington

Hiram M Chittenden Locks, Lake Washington Ship Canal, Ballard, Seattle, Washington

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

Chittenden Locks

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks are on the Lake Washington Ship Canal which links Lake Washington, Lake Union and Salmon Bay with the Puget Sound.  They are located just a few miles west of the Fishermen’s Terminal we visited last week.

Following the failure of several private canal schemes, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gen. Hiram M. Chittenden, advanced the project, and his name was later given to the Government Locks linking the Sound and Salmon Bay at Ballard.  Work began in November 1911. The Locks officially opened on July 4, 1917, but the canal was not declared complete until 1934.  The locks are also known locally as the Ballard Locks after the neighborhood to their north.

The locks and associated facilities serve three purposes:

  • To maintain the water level of the fresh water in Lake Washington and Lake Union at 20 to 22 feet above sea level.
  • To prevent the mixing of sea water from Puget Sound with the fresh water of the lakes (saltwater intrusion).
  • To move boats from the water level of the lakes to the water level of Puget Sound, and vice versa.

The complex includes two locks, a small (30 x 150 ft, 8.5 x 45.7 meter) and a large (80 x 825, 24.4 x 251.5 meter). The complex also includes a (235-foot, 71.6 meter) spillway with six (32 x 12-foot (3.7 m), 9.8 x 3.7 meter) gates to assist in water-level control. A fish ladder is integrated into the locks for migration of anadromous fish, notably salmon.

Hiram M Chittenden Locks, Lake Washington Ship Canal, Ballard, Seattle, Washington

Hiram M Chittenden Locks, Lake Washington Ship Canal, Ballard, Seattle, Washington

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

The above image shows the approaches to the locks where the boats gather to go through the lock in groups rather than singularly.  This is a much more efficient way of utilizing the facility as it takes 10-15 minutes to change the water level up to the 26 feet height differential between Salmon Bay and the Puget Sound.

Hiram M Chittenden Locks, Lake Washington Ship Canal, Ballard, Seattle, Washington

Hiram M Chittenden Locks, Lake Washington Ship Canal, Ballard, Seattle, Washington

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

As noted above, the complex includes two locks. Using the small lock when boat traffic is low conserves fresh water during summer, when the lakes receive less inflow. Having two locks also allows one of the locks to be drained for maintenance without blocking all boat traffic.  The shot above is of the large lock.  The large white luxury yacht in the background is also in the lock with the tug boat and its two large gravel barges.

See more images of the Chittenden Locks here.

6 Comments

  1. Great images Mark. I love that area and was hoping to get there on the cross country trip I have been on. Not enough time and the weather there has been rainy. Next trip. At least I can enjoy the location through your images.
    Len Saltiel recently posted..God’s Sculptures and Road Trip ObservationsMy Profile

  2. These are really nice shots, Mark. Locks are amazing in their ability to drastically alter water levels in a short time. A fun process to watch as well.

    Fun post,man.
    Jimi Jones recently posted..Free RideMy Profile

  3. That’s very cool. Wonderful post and images mark.

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