Preserving the History of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle, Washington

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Springtime at the Locks

While it's still a little early for viewing the annual salmon migration through the Chittenden Locks, the boating traffic is starting to increase (the small lock has been closed for the regular inspection/maintenance, but will reopen soon), the Carl English Garden has been busier than ever. Spring brings an outburst of new blooms and if you take your time walking through the grounds you can see some new arrivals. These photos were taken by Emily Dunn, a local high school student, who has provided us with many other garden photos while accumulating hours towards her community service. See how many of these flowers you can spot on your next visit.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Notice to Chittenden Locks marine traffic

We received the following notice concerning the annual closure of the small lock for it's maintenance and inspection procedures. Plan accordingly boaters. And for visitors and tourists, it is still a great time to visit and get a look at what it looks like below the water's surface.

View of a previous pumpout.

A prior pumpout.

Link to Corps new release website:

Chittenden Locks small chamber closing 14 days for annual maintenance

SEATTLE - The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks small chamber will close to marine traffic from noon Friday, April 4, through 7 p.m. Friday, April 18
Crews will conduct maintenance and safety inspections during the small chamber pump out and closure. Foot traffic will not be affected and the large lock will continue around-the-clock operations for vessels. Lock wall staff will get commercial traffic through as quickly as possible.

All pleasure craft will use the large lock, and boaters should be prepared with appropriate equipment and crew. Large lock requirements include long lines and fenders on board. Current locking through information is available at Mariners may experience delays, depending on passage demand.

Most machinery and equipment, including the gates and valves, are original to the 97-year-old facility. The annual closure gives dam safety experts and maintenance staff an opportunity to dry out the chambers for thorough inspections and to make necessary repairs. This routine maintenance is necessary and important in keeping the Chittenden Locks safe and operational as the locks approach their 100-year anniversary.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns and operates the Chittenden Locks. The busiest in the nation, nearly 50,000 vessels lock through each year.

For current information about activities at the Locks, visit the Locks' Web site at or follow the Locks on Facebook and Twitter: and

Steven W. Cosgrove
Public Affairs Office
Seattle District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lake Washington Ship Canal

Map shows the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Photo courtesy of and used with permission.

March 22, 1907, was the date that the Lake Washington Canal Association filed the forms which documented the issuance of $10,000 in capital stock in order to carry out the work of finishing the canal, allowing the transportation of goods from Lake Washington and points inland out through the canal and into Puget Sound. Just the day before, the Association had filed the papers necessary to incorporate themselves into a legal entity. The Association was comprised of John,H. McGraw, Thomas Burke, George A. Virtue, C. E. Remsberg, Roger S. Greene and J.S. Brace. H.A.P. Myers was a notary public for the county and with his signature and the county seal the long sought effort to complete the canal would begin in earnest.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A View of the Locks Over Time

Early shot of the Government Locks

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has an extensive archival research collection available to the public. It includes primary documents, publication clippings, books reports and over 8,000 photographs which have been scanned and digitized by volunteers. The archive is open by appointment only. While items cannot be checked out, they can be viewed and studied at the locks. The earliest photographs date back to 1899, include many of the locks during construction, and continue through the '90's, with scenes of historic interest as well as images depicting the day to day operations at the locks.

Below are a small sample of images which are in the collection. Some of these images are actually in slide format and may or may not have a corresponding photo. Currently we do not have viewing equipment for the slide collection.

If you are interested in viewing the archive, or researching the stories behind any of these images, or any other aspect of the locks or Carl English Garden history, please contact Susan Connole at: for more information.

Read below the fold and enjoy the pictures.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Day at the Locks, Feb.5, 2014

Today at the locks, visitors could expect to see the unexpected as usual. The usual cormorants, grebes, ducks, gulls, herons, squirrels, crows, and pigeons were all in evidence and other species could possibly make an appearance depending on how long one could withstand the frigid temps. With the falling of the leaves, one can easily make out the multitude of heron nests on the south side of the locks.

Avian lookouts

Heron nests on the south side of locks

Along with the wildlife activity there has been some activity in the locks themselves as minor repairs were carried out by navy divers. The large lock was closed for several hours on Tuesday while the work was underway. After completion on the large lock, the divers moved to the small lock for additional work carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday. This is not a typical occurrence but is performed when needed for maintenance or repairs on the locks. Should you lose a camera, watch, or any other item into the lock, it will rest on the lock bottom until the regularly scheduled annual lock draining.

Divers preparing to enter

Along with the other boaters using the locks were two large vessels on their way for their prospective jobs. One was a large fishing boat heading to Alaska, and then there was this NOAA ship headed for Honolulu. Guess which crew had the bigger smiles!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Large lock back in operation

The Corps of Engineers is reporting that the large lock at the Chittenden Locks is back in operation. Enjoy!

Large lock at the Chittenden Locks in use

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013 Large Lock Inspection

The large will be closed to boat traffic from Nov. 5, 2013 until Nov. 20, 2013 so that the lock can be inspected and maintenance performed as necessary. The small lock is still operating for smaller vessels. Even though you won't be able to watch the large vessels locking through, It is still worth a trip to see and appreciate the enormity of this site.

The large lock almost emptied.

Here is a link to a previous post describing the process and with pictures taken during the closing

2012 post of large lock inspection

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Coming Lock Closures

From the US Army Corps of Engineers website, some information on the lock closures in October and November.

"The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard will close to much or all marine traffic at various times Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and Nov. 5-20.

Vessel operators should pay close attention to times, vessel-size restrictions and impacts caused by railroad bridge maintenance.

On Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, U.S. Navy divers are scheduled to prepare the Adult Salmon Exclusion Structure for normal winter operations. Both locks are scheduled to be closed on Oct. 31 a maximum of four hours from 8 a.m. to noon. The large lock only is scheduled to be closed from approximately 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 1.

The large lock at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard is scheduled to close to all marine traffic from 9 a.m., Nov. 5, to 5 p.m., Nov. 20, for annual maintenance. The small lock will still be available for vessels less than 115 feet in length and 26 feet in width throughout the large lock maintenance period. Please note, however, that in conjunction with the Lock closure, BNSF Railway will make structural upgrades to the Ballard railroad bridge which crosses Lake Washington Ship Canal west of the Locks. High mast vessels able to use the small lock will not be able to pass the bridge during the four BNSF Railway closures from 9 a.m. to midnight, Nov. 5, 7, 12 and 14."

Corps of Engineers main page

Army Corps info