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

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Seal Rescue

During the emptying of the large lock, a seal remained in the chamber. Before the work could start on the maintenance of the lock, the seal would have to be caught and released in the sound. Here are a few pics of the process which had a happy conclusion even if the process was somewhat stressful for all involved. Thanks to the Corps employees for posting the pics on their blog site.

Army Corps of Engineers Chittenden Locks Facebook Page
Harbor seal netted

Ready to start the removal.

The seal gets a ride.

The seal gets a birds eye view.
The large lock minus boats water and seal.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Large Lock Closure

The Us Army Corps of Engineers has posted a notice for the temporary closing of the large lock.

SEATTLE – The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks large chamber will close to vessel traffic from 7 a.m., Oct. 7 to 7 p.m., Oct.  9. Follow the link below for more information.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials are test drilling for an upgrade of the large lock’s emergency closure system. The Small Lock will continue operations.


Monday, August 25, 2014

August 2014 Garden Photos

Our student volunteer, Emily Dunn, has once again brought her camera on a walk through the gardens and has provided these photos for all to enjoy. There will be more weeks with which to enjoy these scenes up close and personal but until you make it to the locks ... enjoy these. Thanks again, Emily!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer at the Locks

As summer is drawing to a close, it's worth reminding ourselves that we still have plenty more time to enjoy an outing at the locks. The concert season is continuing with jazz and classical music scheduled for Aug. 16 and 17 respectively and there is also a classic pre 1950's car show on the grounds on the 16th. Here is a link to the full schedule: Summer concerts and events at the locks.  

Some recent concerts featured latin music, a sedentary(!) marching band and a ukulele orchestra with a grab bag of genres.
Musica Molida

Relaxed Ukes

Ballard Sedentary Sousa Band

Here are some photos taken by a new volunteer, Kendra, at the recent fuchsia show.

Kendra also contributed these photos from a stroll around the grounds. Enjoy these and come down for your own stroll and enjoy the summer weather.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Greater Seattle Fuchsia Society

Our friends at the Greater Seattle Fuchsia Society have sent the following invitation to their upcoming show at the locks. This group has been volunteering at the locks for decades and are responsible for the fuchsia display you will find outside the Admin. building as you approach the locks. Some of the plants you will see have been developed locally and are named after local members of the society. So come and enjoy a day of all things fuchsia!

Fuchsias on display

The Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden is proud to host the
47th Annual Greater Seattle Fuchsia Society judged show on
Saturday, July 26th, 2014 at the Hiram Chittenden Locks in Seattle,
3015 NW 54th Street.

The show is located in the nursery just as you enter the site from the main entrance off NW 54th street. Spend a relaxing day exploring the Locks and take time to stroll through a wide variety of fuchsias from bonsai and trees to hanging baskets and wall boxes. Talk to the experts, vote for your favorite fuchsia and check out the fuchsia display beds as you wander through our beautiful garden. 
The exhibit will be available for viewing from 9:00am - 5:00pm Saturday.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Locks walkway closing - Update

Removing gate in April
UPDATE. Today's scheduled walkway closing did not happen at the posted time. Mechanical issues force a postponement. It may happen today or tbd. Do check with available resources for more up to date info. Web links and a phone number can be found at the end of this post.

 For those who use the walkway to cross the canal please read the following notice taken from the Corps Facebook page. Be sure to check their page for further notices as more construction is planned for the summer.

Walkway closed for gate removal.
ATTENTION: We will be having a closure of the walkway adjacent to the spillway dam on MONDAY. That is THIS MONDAY JUNE 16 after 9AM. If you regularly commute through the locks be advised that you need to transit the walkway before 9AM. The closures could last several hours so DO NOT COUNT ON THE LOCKS FOR COMMUTING after 9AM. We will regularly post updates and let you know as soon as we can when the next closure will occur. If you plan on visiting the locks on Monday and want to view the salmon and tainter gate removal ONLY, park near Commodore Park in Magnolia. If you plan on visiting the locks and would rather spend your time viewing a tainter gate removal, boats and gardens then park on the Ballard side. Thank you for your patience, it's going to be quite the summer for construction!

Walkway closure times will be:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer is coming to the Locks

As summer approaches, the locks will see a steady increase in visitors either walking the grounds or actually heading in from or out to the Sound. One of our volunteers, Emily Dunn, has provided us with more of her photos showing views of the locks as well as several pics from the garden. The smolt slides are installed to help start the young salmon on their sea journey. Two of the dam gates have been replaced so far and the rest will be replaced over the coming months. Those who choose to use the walkway for cross canal access should be alert to posted information on dates and times when the walkway may be closed. For now, here are some of our latest pictures and there will be more to follow as the summer progresses.

Select link below for more photos.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Managing water levels - The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, Lake Washington, and the Cedar River


Rearched and written by Kyle Stetler
Spillway Dam, looking upstream, under construction. June 19, 1916.



Looking north east at the spillway dam and lock site. Dec. 10, 1920


With spring runoff starting, winter floods behind us, and a record drenching March, as you walk over the locks, some of you may wonder where does all this water come from and how does the Corps of Engineers know how much to release or keep.

The water that leaves through the lock chambers, races under the tainter gates, or gushes through the fish ladder at the Hiram M. Chittenden locks has had a long journey by the time it hits the Puget Sound. Most of the water starts out as snow high in the Cascade Mountains slowly working its way down, over waterfalls, through turbines, meandering down a river, and then hanging out in Seattle before finally meeting the ocean. In this article we will take a brief look at the history of what role the locks has had on the watershed that drains through Salmon Bay and how and who manages the water levels.



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!