Ballard Locks, Washington

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ballard locks
yacht and kayaks going through Ballard Locks, Seattle, WA

About an hour drive from where we were visiting in Tacoma, WA is Ballard Locks. The official name is Hiram M. Chittendom Locks, but I don’t think anybody knows that.

Botanical Gardens, Ballard Locks, WA
Carl S. English, Jr., Botanical Gardens, Ballard Locks

Ballard Locks is more than just a shipping channel. On the shore are beautiful gardens, with rare trees and plants. Parks to sit and watch the activity on the locks, have a picnic, or roll down the gentle slopes, as a number of children (and adults) were doing. There is also a walking path through the gardens and a museum. We had a personal tour guide: Tim, a ranger, took us around and pointed out features of the gardens and locks.  He pointed out ginko trees, dawn redwoods and sequoias in the gardens.

ballard locks, seattle, wa
waiting for the locks to open

He showed us the difference between the stronger, original cement and gravel construction of the buildings and the newer cement benches, which were already cracked and crumbling. He explained how the locks functioned as we watched them in action.

fish ladders, ballard locks, seattle, wa
fish ladders, salmon “climb” from puget sound into fresh water to spawn

He showed us the fish ladders where the salmon migrate from their ocean home, back to fresh waters to spawn. Cables, much like clotheslines, are strung across the locks to protect the spawning salmon and smolts from seagulls and other predatory birds.

going with the flow
sign explaining smolt slides, which enable young salmon to return to the ocean

We watched as kayakers paddled through the locks from fresh water into Puget Sound and yachts motored from Puget Sound through the locks.

stainless steel sculpture
Salmon Waves, by Paul Sorey, Stainless Steel sculpture, Ballard Locks

Even sculptures are displayed at the locks.

Across the dam, there is an underwater viewing area, where you can watch the locks and fish ladders, if you’re lucky you’ll see some fish. Of course, it helps if you’re there during spawning season.

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