Pets allowed
Guided tours
Backcountry camping
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

A visit to the Ballard Locks promises a captivating blend of history and natural wonder. Start your day by immersing yourself in the rich history of this engineering marvel. The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, commonly known as the Ballard Locks, were constructed in 1917 and named after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officer who championed their creation. These locks were built as a solution to the tidal differences between the saltwater Puget Sound and the freshwater Lake Union and Lake Washington, enabling safe passage for boats.

Begin your exploration with a stroll along the manicured gardens that frame the locks. These lush green spaces offer picturesque views of passing boats and the surrounding landscapes. Make sure to visit the Visitor Center, where informative displays and exhibits delve into the history of the locks, their construction, and the role they've played in shaping the region's development.

As you venture towards the Fish Ladder, you'll witness a fascinating natural spectacle. The Fish Ladder is a unique feature that facilitates the migration of salmon and other fish species, overcoming the locks' elevation difference. During the salmon spawning season, typically in late summer to early fall, you can witness these incredible fish leaping and navigating the ladder's steps on their way to their spawning grounds upstream.

Pack a picnic to enjoy by the water's edge, taking in the rhythmic passage of vessels through the locks. If timing aligns, you might be lucky to witness a boat being raised or lowered within the lock chambers, an intricate process that showcases the engineering brilliance behind the locks' operation.

For a more immersive experience, consider taking a guided tour that delves deeper into the locks' history, operation, and the ecological importance of the fish ladder. The tour guides often share intriguing anecdotes that breathe life into the locks' century-old story.


Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Pay to park.

Open Year-round



Beautiful Gardens. Fish Ladder Observation. Lock System Observation.




ADA accessible
Family friendly
Guided tours
Potable water
Historically significant
Near lake or river



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