Toddler’s Best Outing: A Morning at the Ballard Locks

When I had the idea of stopping by the Ballard Locks last week, I thought Bergen might enjoy himself wandering around the botanical garden and venturing across the little bridges to get a look at the salmon journeying home.  I did not realize, however that he would become completely captivated by the sound and sight of the water and everything that went along with it! I’m thinking that if the little guy could talk, he’d say he wanted to go back right away.

Ballard Locks: Seattle, WA |

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, the site’s official name but known to us locals as simply the “Ballard Locks” for the neighborhood they are located in, in short is a waterway system that connects the fresh water of the ship canal (Lake Union & Lake Washington) to the salt water of the Puget Sound.  A fish ladder that was created for salmon to navigate and find their way through the locks also runs along side.

While the botanical garden is lovely, tiny and destructive fingers made our stroll a little too frustrating, so we quickly moved on to the main event.  It didn’t take long for my appreciation for the locks to grow even more.  Wide, yet safe spaces for Bergen to run around, interesting, sturdy things to climb on, a variety of vessels to check out, and beautiful views to take-in.

Chittenden ("Ballard") Locks |

Knowing the salmon migrate in the summer (and throughout much of the fall), I knew we’d see fish, but as we made our way across the locks, I did not expect to see the adorable face of a harbor seal! The seal swam up just long enough for me to snap a picture and alert Bergen (and then disappeared), but I really think Bergen was too engrossed by the rushing water and enormous boats to pay attention or care.

Ballard Locks: Seattle, WA |

I let Bergen continue to lead the way.  He would pause for minutes at a time just to watch the water shooting through the lock systems.

Ballard Locks: Seattle, WA |

Standing outside and watching the fish ladder, you might see fish as they are trudging along or even jumping out of the water, but to get a better and much closer look, we ventured underground to the observatory.  Some of these fish are so humongous it seems like they might never make it, what an effort they put in!

Fish Ladder: Ballard Locks, Seattle |

Info to Know: 

  • Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks) are located in the Ballard neighborhood in northwest Seattle, WA:
    • 3015 NW 54th Street Seattle, WA 98107
    • Hours: 7am-9pm (fish ladder viewing room/observatory closes at 8:45pm)
    • FREE!
  • Parking is available just outside the entrance for $2/hour (maximum 3 hours), but we park for free on the neighborhood streets around the locks, and walk a few blocks.
  • Check the Army Corps of Engineer’s Chittenden Locks Calendar of Events for tours, concerts, and other events happening at the locks.
  • More  Ballard neighborhood fun:

Have you visited any locks and/or dams? Tell us about your experience! 

Ballard Locks: Seattle, WA |

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8 thoughts on “Toddler’s Best Outing: A Morning at the Ballard Locks

    • Yes, you absolutely have to come back for a visit, Michelle! Bummer that you didn’t make it to the locks, but knowing you, I’m sure you got to see some amazing stuff 🙂

  1. Loved the harbor seal. Hope to visit the locks on my next trip. Quite different from the locks at Great Falls in Maryland.

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