A Look at The Ballard Locks After 100 Years

Last Sunday, July 9th, the city turned out to celebrate the Ballard Locks’ 100th anniversary with a boat parade. This facility, officially called the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, has been an essential part of Seattle’s infrastructure, in addition to playing a key part in our city’s modern development.

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Lake Washington Ship Canal were formally opened in July 1917, named after a U.S. Army Major who served as the Seattle District Engineer for the Corps from April 1906 until September 1908. They were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, designed to be a commercial navigation route that would preserve salmon habitats and migration routes and also prevent further displacement of Native American people in the area.

By opening the local waterways to maritime commerce, the Locks played a key part of making Seattle the major port city it has become. “The waterway provided a route for boats to bring cargo to and from the region, from oil and steel to hats and coats, and to push and pull tons of logs into Lake Washington from logging camps around Puget Sound. And many new maritime businesses also opened on the shores of Lake Union and Salmon Bay, including boatbuilders, sawmills and William Boeing’s first seaplane factory,” a Seattle Magazine article reported.

The Ballard Locks have two locks of different sizes, a spillway to facilitate water level control, and a fish ladder to support fish migration, primarily salmon. Its grounds include a visitors center and the Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Gardens.

Today, the locks serve three primary purposes:

  1. Maintain the fresh water level of Lake Union and Lake Washington at 20-22 feet above sea level.
  2. Prevent saltwater intrusion (sea water mixing with fresh water) from Puget Sound into the lakes.
  3. Safely and efficiently transport boats between the two different water levels.

According to the locks website, the Ballard Locks transports more than 40,000 vessels each year, making them the busiest locks in the entire U.S. Both commercial and recreational vessels can navigate through the locks 24 hours each day (except during maintenance). In addition to boats and ships, the Locks support a significant salmon migration totalling more than 100,000 salmon each season. The site is a National Historic Site (added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978) as well as a local icon, which attracts more than 1.3 million visitors each year. Passage through the Locks, visitor entry and guided tours, and even summer concerts on the grounds are all free of charge.

Perhaps most importantly, the Ballard Locks is essential infrastructure whose activity provides $1.2 billion to the economy each year and supports thousands of jobs.

However, this critical facility is in need of significant repairs due to age. The Corps of Engineers is working on the major repairs to ancient machinery, closure systems and more. But the necessary upgrades to the visitor education facilities needs public support. Click here to find out how you can help!

Featured photo source: nws.usace.army.mil

Help Ballard Bring Home The Curbed Cup!

We Ballardites know that we’re lucky enough to live in the BEST neighborhood in Seattle, right? Well, now’s our chance to let the whole city know!

The 2016 Curbed Cup is up for grabs and it’s down to us, Vs Columbia City. That’s right, we have made it all the way to the final round!

Now, it’s time to bring it home.  With 5 (yes, F-I-V-E) days to vote for Ballard, and a community of crazy-proud inhabitants, it would be a cinch to take the title. That is, THE title, the whole shebang, The Curbed Cup.

Head over to Curbed Seattle to cast your vote (or click here and skip the extra typing) for our ‘hood before midnight tonight for it to count.

And don’t just stop there, share the link with your friends! Text, them, email them, bribe them into casting their vote, whatever you have to do, get others to join so we can come out on top!

The title is within our grasp, so close we can taste it, let’s not let it slip away! We all know Ballard is where it’s at, let’s make sure everyone else does too! 

Christmas Ships Are Coming To Town!

If you’ve never done it before, the Christmas Ships are a Northwest tradition worth checking out!

The Argosy Cruise Christmas Ship Festival is an annual Pacific Northwest tradition, going strong since 1949. Each year, the Argosy Christmas Ship, adorned with twinkle lights and Holiday cheer, sets sail from a different port around the greater Seattle area. On board the Christmas Ship,  a local choir serenades passengers  with a 20-minute performance of beloved Christmas Carols.

The Carols are broadcast to the entire community through a state of the art speaker system, so if you can’t be on the ship, you can still enjoy the Christmas magic from a distance. Folks from all around the neighborhood gather on the shore to behold the glimmering lights of the beautifully decorated ship and to hear the Carols being sung on board. It’s a great opportunity for a bonfire and mug of cocoa with the kids!

There are multiple opportunities to see or be a part of the Christmas Ship, at over 65 different waterfront locations in the greater Seattle area.  Each Lead Boat has tons of fun going on board, like

* Choir performance on board

* Santa Claus reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”

* Ho, Ho, Ho Contest and other holiday activities

* Holiday Gift Shop on board

* Kids holiday craft area and activities

* Full-service bar and snacks available for purchase

Argosy generously donates a portion of all tickets sold to the Seattle Time’s Fund For The Needy, so your purchase of a ticket goes to help those in need, right here at home.

The Christmas Ships Festival is a beloved tradition around here for a reason. Be sure to experience it for yourself this year!

For more information, click here.

If Ice Caps Melt Ballard Will Look Like…

According to Jeffrey Lin, a campus planner at University of Washington with a background in geography, Ballard would look a whole lot different than it does today if all the ice caps in the world melted. With new geographical names such as Phinney Peninsula, Crown Point, Loyal Headlands, and a new Bay of Ballard, the make up of Ballard would change dramatically.  While the idea that this will take place in the near future is far fetched at best, it is interesting to see how our geography could change in the future.  See his illustration of what Ballard could look like below.

Tug Boat Sinks in Ballard

According to The Seattle Times, a 72 foot wooden tug boat that was being moored at a dock in Salmon Bay sank early Monday morning near the Ballard Bridge. The Department of Ecology was on hand to assist as some fuel had leaked into the bay. While details of how this happened are still coming in, it did not appear to be a large quantity.

The Coast Guard received a call from the boats caretaker around 7:30 AM to notify them that the tug was sinking. This wooden tug boat was in the middle of being transformed into a floating residence when this incident occurred. For more information on this developing story, please check out The Seattle Times. 

Free Concerts at the Ballard Locks Starting This Weekend

botanical gardens ballard

Carl S. English Botanical Gardens, Ballard Locks

This weekend marks the beginning of the 24th Annual free concert series at the Ballard Locks! One Thursday May 30th, the first concert will be the Seattle Civic Band beginning at 7pm, so come on down after work and enjoy some live music. The live Concert series will take place on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the months of June through September in the  in the Locks, as well as a few special performances on July and Labor Day.

These concerts are free, but seating is limited, so  if you’re planning on going down on a nice sunny afternoon, be sure to get there early to snag a good seat. Find a calendar of the scheduled performances here, including the Cascadia Jazz Band, and the Highline Community Symphonic Band.

Large Lock Closed For Maintenance at Ballard Locks

It’s been brought to our attention that the large Ballard Lock will be closed through November 20th for it’s annual maintenance, so those big boats will have to find an alternative route between Lake Washington and Puget Sound for the next two weeks.

According to Komo news, vessels smaller than 115 ft long and 26 ft wide can use the small lock in the next few weeks during the closure. The BNSF Railroad Bridge near the locks will also be closed through November 18th for repairs, so boat operators of tall mast boats who aren’t able to use the small lock will not be able to pass through this route either. For more information about the Ballard Locks and upcoming closures, visit the City of Seattle website.

Boat Damages Small Lock at Ballard Locks

Photo Courtesy of http://craigencruises.com

While I was at the Ballard Market enjoying the sunshine yesterday afternoon, the hot topic of discussion seemed to be the boater accident at the Ballard Locks! Sometime around 1:30pm yesterday a boat crashed into the west gate of the locks and caused enough damage to shut down that portion of the locks for the time being.

The Seattle Times reported that repairs began this morning and that it appeared to be mostly surface damage on a walkway; luckily there were no pedestrians on it when the boat crashed into it. According to the Times, the boat that crashed was the Spirit of 76 and the driver reported a malfunction and could not put the boat in reverse. The dock will remain closed this morning as repairs are being done, smaller boats can use the larger dock, but it might cause some back up for vessels in the area.

Seal Pup Sightings in Ballard

This past weekend, locals spotted a baby seal pup perched on the beach shores soaking up some sun rays in Ballard. This time of year is when seal pups are often seen along the pacific northwest shores, resting and warming up and I’d like to use this sighting as an

Photo courtesy of www.myballard.com

opportunity to remind waterfront property owners and beach goers what to do when there is a baby seal sighting: call the local group Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 206-905-SEAL (7325). These folks will send a designated “seal sitter” to set a perimeter around the pup to protect it until the mother returns for him, or until he swims away. After you’ve placed the good Samaritan phone call, the next step would be to steer clear of the seal, and make sure that all dogs are leashed in the area. Seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and it’s actually a violation to touch them, so make sure you and those around you leave the little guy alone. For more information on seal sightings in the Seattle area, click here.

Southbound Lane Closure on Ballard Bridge Today

Painting crews are moving over to the other side of the bridge this week after finishing up on the Northbound side of the bridge, and the outside southbound lane will be closed from 10am-6pm today. The lane will be closed 10am-6pm Tues-Fri this week, and will close the following week 8pm-6am Mon- Thurs. Bicyclists should also note that the sidewalks will be closed on the west side, but the east sidewalk will remain open. Bicyclists can use the Fremont Bridge, or cross the ship canal  to the Ballard Locks during this time. For more traffic updates, click here.