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

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fish Ladder Reopens and the Sockeye are here!

After a thorough annual spring cleaning, the fish ladder at the Ballard Locks reopens tonight, just in time for the arrival of the sockeye salmon and Memorial Day weekend.  The sockeye are on their way.  Our insiders tell us that four sockeye were recently spotted in the area.

Of the 3 Pacific salmon species that use the fish ladder, the sockeye are the first to return each year, coming back from the Gulf of Alaska where they have been feeding for the last two to three years. The majority of the sockeye that pass through the Ballard Locks were hatched on the Cedar River and are returning there to spawn.

When we see the sockeye at the Locks they are silver in color.  It’s called the “ocean phase.”  The sockeye in this phase are easily identified from other salmon species by the lack of spots on their backs.  Adult sockeye will average from 24 to 30 inches in length.  They weigh from six to eight pounds.  As they journey through fresh water to the spawning beds their bodies will take on the distinctive red color called the “freshwater phase.”

After moving through the Ship Canal and lakes Union and Washington, the sockeye salmon will reach their spawning beds in late September or early October.  Each female will lay several thousand eggs in the gravel of the riverbed.  Salmon die after spawning, becoming an important part of the ecosystem as their decaying bodies return essential nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to the soil.

The fish ladder viewing gallery is open daily from 7 a.m.-8:45 p.m., there are displays there and in the Visitor Center (10 - 6:00 daily) with additional information on the salmon life cycle.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The White Sands passes through the Locks, October 4, 1975

Researched and Written by Tom O'Grady

The dry dock White Sands entering the lock Oct. 4, 1975

On October 4, 1975 this would be what you would see if you were down at  the Ballard Locks between 1:00 and 5:00 pm. The full story behind this photo has not been told and is only known by a few but we are attempting to gather the complete details concerning this day at the Ballard  Locks.

What you are seeing in this photo is the dry dock  "White Sands"  being towed stern first into the large lock by the Josie Foss, captained by Bob Hayden and  the Dorothy Foss, captained by Lee Crider (just behind the dry dock).   This was the second attempt to bring the dry dock into Lake Union. The  first attempt on Sept. 9th failed when one of the barges attached to  the hull broke loose. The barges were used as part of the plan to angle the dry dock sufficiently so as to clear the walls of the lock. We are still looking for others with information concerning the failed first attempt. Any tug operators,  pilots, crew or witnesses to the event are invited to contact us with  your memories of the day. It is worth noting that this was just the latest in unique events involving the dry dock, and some of that history we can tell here.