Ballard Locks and salmon ladder near Seattle

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark (I haven’t aged at all since I first wrote this introduction) and I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC are enjoying the superb weather of summertime Seattle. We’ve encountered some interesting folk, including a triffid (read my previous post), Sal the Salmon (photos below), and a metaphysical mastermind (coming up in my next post).

Yesterday we trickled along to the Ballard Locks, north west of Seattle. The locks are also known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, named after the engineer who led the first phase of construction starting in 1911.

The book I’m in

Never Go Back, by Robert Goddard. Two hapless RAF veterans find themselves mixed up in murder and mayhem, tied up in a nice bit of historical cold war skulduggery.

The photos

Me with Sal the Sockeye Salmon, at the fish ladder built alongside the Ballard Locks. Sal and his mates are taking it easy in the deep waters before tackling the next jump up the fish ladder:

The fish ladder is built so that you can see it from above and also go underground to view the fish through glass windows in the walls. The Sockeye Salmon are making their run at the moment, but in lower numbers than past years.

The Ballard Locks are part of a series of constructions built in the early 1900s to make a navigable pathway from Lake Washington to Puget Sound. Once the various construction projects were finished, ships could carry cargo such as log, wood, and fish from the lake to the coast and in reverse.

The locks make it possible for boats to move up and down the Lake Washington Ship Canal, travelling inland from the coast or vice versa, even though there’s a big difference in the level of the water in Lake Washington (which is more than 6 metres above sea level) and in Puget Sound (which is at sea level).

Here are a sailing boat and a dinghy entering the locks from the direction of Puget Sound, wanting to jump vertically upwards by a few metres into the canal. There’s a dog accompanying the sailor on the yacht:

The yachtsman secures his boat in the lock:

The lock gates close behind the boats:

The lock operators watch from the side:

The filling-valves open below the water level, letting in the water from Salmon Bay. The water rises in the lock, lifting the boats with it, until eventually the water level is the same on both sides of the top gate, and the boats can move into the lake:

This lock is the larger of the two Ballard Locks. Things can get quite busy. In fact, the Ballard Locks are the busiest locks in the US:

A dam wall with a spillway holds back the waters of Salmon Bay from plunging down into Puget Sound. This picture shows the spillway, viewed from the Commodore Park side of the canal, which is on the side opposite the locks:

This video is taken from the walkway above the spillway, looking down at the patterns on the moving water, then raising the camera to look out towards Puget Sound.

This is the view from the spillway, looking west towards Puget Sound:

On the Commodore Park side of the canal is the fish ladder, winding up the bank from sea level at the bottom to the lake level at the top of the ladder. In all, there are 21 steps in the ladder:

This is the dam wall seen from the Salmon Bay side, with part of the fish ladder in the foreground:

Here’s another picture of the salmon under the water, on their way up the ladder from the ocean to the lakes:

That’s all for today, folks.


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