jay dotson photography


To enter Lake Washington from Puget Sound you will need to transit the locks (formally called the Hirem S Chittenden Locks, but informally known as the Ballard Locks). This is a very simple process. The locks are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No reservations are required and you do not have to pay any fees.

Just outside the locks (salt water side) is a railroad bridge. This bridge is usually in the open position. If it is in the closed position the clearance is 42 feet. To request the bridge to open either honk your horn one long blast followed by one short blast, or contact the bridge master on VHF channel 13, or phone the bridge master at 206 784-2976. The bridge will answer with a long and a short horn blast if it will comply and open immediately or four shorts if it cannot open immediately (because a train is about to arrive). Even if the bridge is closed it is never a long wait.

Once through the bridge you are right at the mouth of the locks. There are two sets of locks, the small locks (south side) which can take a maximum vessel length of 120 feet, and the large locks (north side) which can accommodate vessels up to 700 feet. The lock masters will tell you which they want you to enter and there are also red/green traffic lights to indicate where they want you to go. The lock masters are also reachable on VHF channel 13 or by phone at 206 783-7000. The locks are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and no reservations or fees are required. In preparation for going through the lock you want to have bumpers out on both sides of your vessel as the lock master may have smaller boats raft to you. Even if your vessel can fit in the small locks, sometimes due to vessel traffic or other constraints, the lock master might direct you to the large locks. In case this happens, you need to have long bow and stern lines (at least 60 feet in length) ready. In the large locks you pass your lines to the lock master who secures them up top and you adjust your lines as the water level brings you up. In the small locks you tie directly to floating walls that rise with the water level and your vessel and no adjustment of lines is required.

Once you are through the locks you travel roughly 2,000 feet east down the ship canal (also called Salmon Bay) and our facility is on the south side of the canal.