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

Contact us at

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.

A visit to the Ballard locks can bring many an unexpected viewing experience. Here are some examples of unusual sightings over the years. Many of these are topics which will be further researched and used for a more complete telling of the story.
Although boats transiting the locks are not unusual, there have been vessels not seen very often. Below are some examples of the more notable examples.
You may see the lock filled with dozens of boats locking through at once as in this photo. This was most likely an Opening Day parade. A great spectacle for the viewers and an opportunity to practice patience for the boaters.
Or you may see them squeeze one large boat through. Here is one of our NOAA vessels
from July 1, 1978.
White Sands dry dock starting a 4 hour transit through the locks
Or they may squeeze even tighter to get an 81' drydock through the 80' wide large lock.

Navy Ships

"S.S. Atkins" at U.S. Government Locks, side view from off bow, showing port side construction of cabin rails and upper deck structure. This was taken 14 Oct 1942, which would have been during WWll. Was this vessel brought in for repairs and then sent off to war?
US Navy Destroyer, tugboat, Deborah Foss, large lock
U.S. Submarine TITLEFISH in large lock 17 March 1947.

June, 1985 Russian sub

Notable Vessels

The Kalakala in early days

Princess Margueritte

Virginia V

Some Tall Ships

Fishing spot just west of the fish ladde


Herons are regular visitors

Our native salmon...

...which attracts non-native sea lions.

From Seattle Times June 16, 1981

A rare visit from a whale

Squid found during lock inspection

Commercial uses, past and present.

At least two float planes have been through the locks. One was an emergency landing we are attempting to document further and another which seemed to have been a planned transit possibly to perform repairs.

Feb. 1947 emergency landing
More orderly, but still unusual, plane locking

Other unusual mishaps in the locks.

From Seattle PI. Reprint is on view upstairs in the Visitor's Center

Car being lifted out of lock

First car to take the plunge

                                                                  Followed by ...
Less than a week later.


There have been other notable mishaps.

Raising tugboat "Annie W" from the drink.

Aleutian Lady with nowhere to go.

Inspection and maintenance

Annual lock inspection and maintenance

Replacing the lock gates.

Large lock gate being raised into position.

Occasionally divers are needed for inspection and repairs.

Some more oddities. 

USAF plane heading for repairs after accident.

From the Seattle PI

Sometimes moving house is actually moving the house.

Photo taken from Adam Woog's book which contains some history and many other photos of the locks.

These are a sampling of the many photos which are in the archive. The stories behind all these photos are a part of what the Friends of the Ballard Locks are focused on. We invite all who are interested in volunteering, to be a part of our group and help us make the background available to others. Please contact Susan Connole for more information.

All photos, except as noted, are property of U.S Army Corps of Engineers and are used here with permission

Other sources used in post

Seattle Times
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The Ballard Locks by Adam Woog

No comments:

Post a Comment

add any information here