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Concerts, Gardens & Ships At Seattle's Hiram M Chittenden Ballard Locks

Updated on March 15, 2014

Ballard Locks' Free Summer Music Concerts

Enjoy a free concert at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle's neighborhood of Ballard. Locals call them The Locks or The Ballard Locks and that's how I'll refer to them in the remainder of this article.

Visit the Locks park for a concert every weekend day, from the beginning of June through the start of September, each year. Regional bands, representing a variety of styles, perform on the north lawn, in the botanical garden area all Summer long.

Enjoy the expansive grounds from 7AM to 9PM in mid-Summer and until 6PM in Autumn. Come in time for the afternoon concert and take a look around later, or tour the park's features and picnic prior to the show.

Bring a blanket or simply enjoy the grassy lawn in the shade of magnificent deciduous trees that punctuate the park, where you can soak in the sound in casual splendor. It's a great social event for the family, to absorb some local culture in the midst of a working engineering marvel.

Before or After the Concert Explore The Many Features of the Locks Park

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are a functional retreat for Seattle residents and tourists alike. Year-round, regardless of the weather, locals and visitors alike tour the grounds informally and in guided groups, and visit the fish ladder.

On their functional side, the Locks sit like two huge cement bread pans with pivoting ends that open and close to admit and release boats and water, facilitating the movement of watercraft from freshwater lakes to Puget Sound.

Since their dedication in 1917, the Ballard Locks have served as the link between north end of Seattle's two grand lakes, Washington, east of Capitol Hill, and Union which lies just in the hollow between Queen Anne Hill on the west and Capitol Hill on the east - and the salt water sound.

One century ago the need was to simplify transportation of huge timber and coal reserves from the resource rich Cascade Mountain region to the rail and sea transportation hub on Puget Sound. The city of Seattle lies on ridges of north/south hills, and hauling heavy loads twenty-five miles up and down the hills and around the shores of Lake Washington to the shipping port on Elliott Bay could take days in the early times.

Building a water route made good common sense. Chittenden's master plan was enacted, including his means of preventing the blending of salt and fresh waters, including the rerouting of the Cedar River into Lake Washington, so the resultant increased outflow provides a forceful barrier against the salt water.

click on photo above and the one below to find original source for two pictures I did not take.

All others © Leslie Sinclair

Read Another Article by The Author

Seattle's Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

Seattle's Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
Seattle's Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

Week-end Concerts Are Held in Green Park Space To Left of Administration Building

Locks Headquarters Building shows in the polaroid photograph above, at middle right, for orientation. The building doors face South, towards the locks themselves.

A Fine Book About The Locks' History

The Ballard Locks
The Ballard Locks

I love seeing old photos of the local locks and this book is full of them. If you've made trips to the Ballard Locks ( Hiram M. Chittenden Locks) then you'll recognize that this facility looks rightfully old.

It is filled with character and charm, and accented by a vast array of boats and ships that travel through the locks.

 

Spectacular Concert Setting

The Concert site is on the west side of the main entrance sidewalk. Opposite and adjoining the Visitors' Center you'll find the Carl S. English Botanical Gardens, with over 500 species of plants on The Locks grounds.

The formal garden is on the east side. It presents a variety of spectacular roses, including an old fashioned deep red climber that must be ten feet tall, as it weaves around a tall trellis.

Old Fashioned Climbing Roses

It's always soothing to visit the Locks. Whether looking into the rose garden or walking inside, it is satisfying, whether or not I know the name of the plants. I particularly enjoy this climbinb rose on the arbor.

While the Army Corps of Engineers planned a sedate and modest garden of northwest native plants on the Locks' park's seven acres, the Corps hired a young professional botanist.

He was recruited from Washington State's agricultural college in Pullman, WA, and spent over four decades developing and expanding the scope of the plantings.

English and his fellow-botanist wife enriched the park through their dedication to cultivating exotic seeds and plants they obtained from donors across the world, to the delight of local garden fanciers.

A Few of The Formal Garden's Flowers Caught My Eye

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A stunning exotic flower just blooming.English rose garden rose map.English rose garden.Fabulous red and white rose.Appealing English Garden hedge.English garden fuschias.
A stunning exotic flower just blooming.
A stunning exotic flower just blooming.
English rose garden rose map.
English rose garden rose map.
English rose garden.
English rose garden.
Fabulous red and white rose.
Fabulous red and white rose.
Appealing English Garden hedge.
Appealing English Garden hedge.
English garden fuschias.
English garden fuschias.

After The Concert Tour The Locks

  1. Directly in front of the Administration building above is the east end of the large lock. It consists of gates, complete with railings and sidewalks on top of the end sections. The only time pedestrians are not permitted on the gates' sidewalks is during the time it takes to swivel them open or closed. It can be a fascinating feeling to stand in the middle of the gate when the large lock water level is way down at the level of Puget Sound.
  2. On the left side of the wide concrete walkway are the metal plate scoops that hold back the lake waters to the east. Next to that is a series of flat sheets of water pouring out from a slit between wide metal trays and run across under the walk into the pipes extending to the right side.
  3. Heading straight ahead from the gates one can cross the full span of the water control dam and spillway and be surrounded by active water. The water on the west side is driven out of huge pipes in large slightly green streams, colored by the seashore algae.

Enjoy The Lock Action And The Concert

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Looking towards the west end of the large lock.Once you get to the Locks sidewalk you'll want to sidle right up to the railing and get a good look too.Close-up look at a gate while it's closing.The person in front guides the pilot to correct alignment with other boats and the lock wall.Small control house between large (right) and small (left) locks.
Looking towards the west end of the large lock.
Looking towards the west end of the large lock.
Once you get to the Locks sidewalk you'll want to sidle right up to the railing and get a good look too.
Once you get to the Locks sidewalk you'll want to sidle right up to the railing and get a good look too.
Close-up look at a gate while it's closing.
Close-up look at a gate while it's closing.
The person in front guides the pilot to correct alignment with other boats and the lock wall.
The person in front guides the pilot to correct alignment with other boats and the lock wall.
Small control house between large (right) and small (left) locks.
Small control house between large (right) and small (left) locks.

See More of The Locks Grounds

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Taken from above the Concert site, on north side of Locks.This sign answers the question of why the Locks are needed.Closing point of sidewalk on Locks joint.Emergency water connections are right on hand.Taken from far south end of lock structure.
Taken from above the Concert site, on north side of Locks.
Taken from above the Concert site, on north side of Locks.
This sign answers the question of why the Locks are needed.
This sign answers the question of why the Locks are needed.
Closing point of sidewalk on Locks joint.
Closing point of sidewalk on Locks joint.
Emergency water connections are right on hand.
Emergency water connections are right on hand.
Taken from far south end of lock structure.
Taken from far south end of lock structure.

A Pair of Beautiful Sailboats Lead the Fleet

Boats Line Up in A Partially Filled Large Lock

Boats closest to the lock wall are tied up to the supports at the top. The next line of boats ties up to the first line, boat by boat, front and back.

Readying For The Tie-Down Throw

The locks worker has his safety gear on. He is attached to a safety cord.

Small Boats Jockey For Lock Position

The smaller boats fill in openings after the larger boats tie up. I took this photograph from a spot on the closed east end gate of the large lock. After walking across the gate to the south, I took the photograph below.

Strings Protect Salmon From Birds of Prey - taken looking South from small lock

Salmon return to the Locks area in Autumn, and leave through the Locks in Spring. It's one of the great pleasures of visiting the Locks, to look over the edge of a lock and see huge groups of salmon. They are prime game for predator birds, such as seagulls.

Notice the thin white lines extending from the bottom of the picture, up and over to the other side of the entire waterway.

Those simple little strings interrupt a force of nature. Since they don't allow for swooping passes the birds can't get down to the water and then lift their salmon catch without tripping up on the cord.

Walk Across The Locks Over The Spillway

  • The above photo shows the view to the Southeast, from the middle of the south side of the large lock. Notice the spillway and the walkway above it.

    Turn right at the far end and go down the ramp along the southern side of the concrete walled ship canal. Notice the long lines of strings that cross the with of the Locks. They are simple devices that prevent seagulls from swooping down to pick off the congregations of migrating salmon before they can get up the fish ladder.

    Please see my article about the fish ladder that lies perpendicular to the dam structure that extends East and West from the south end.

Controlling the Lake Water

On the left side of the wide concrete walkway are the metal plates that hold back the lake waters to the east. Note the series of flat sheets of water pouring out from a slit between wide metal trays and that feed across under the walkway into the pipes extending to the right side.

Ballard Locks and Boats, Seattle, Washington Apron 23 x 30in
Ballard Locks and Boats, Seattle, Washington Apron 23 x 30in

Wear the charming poster or hang it on the wall. This apron sets the tone for a Summer fest. Perfect for hosting a Summer Locks Concert party.

 

Something At The Locks for Everyone

Have you, or do you want to, attend the Summer Concerts at the Ballard Locks?

Yes, music and The Locks - what could be better for a Summer afternoon!

Yes, music and The Locks - what could be better for a Summer afternoon!

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    • ColettaTeske 4 years ago

      I spent quite a bit of time at the Locks when I was a kid. Haven't been there in ages and I don't remember any concerts. I may have to travel to Ballard on my next trip to Seattle.

    Oh no, it's really just another dam-like thing; I get my music elsewhere.

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      Big Tugboat Presence Near Ballard Locks

      Tugboats on Puget Sound (WA) (Images of America)
      Tugboats on Puget Sound (WA) (Images of America)

      At one point I worked for a large local tug company, very near the locks. The ambiance of the old marine warehouse was a romantic experience for a person who loves the locks.

      This book captures the best of the history of local Tug Boats.

       

      Earn Some Points By Taking These Quizzes

      What Do You Think About Having Locks in the City?

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        • lesliesinclair profile image
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          lesliesinclair 4 years ago

          @WriterJanis2: Yes Janis, it seems to magnify my enjoyment if I can be in a beautiful setting in nature while hearing this music.

        • WriterJanis2 profile image

          WriterJanis2 4 years ago

          I love the idea of free concerts during the summer. It's a great way to relax and hear some goof music.

        • lesliesinclair profile image
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          lesliesinclair 4 years ago

          @davery77: I wonder what it is like to be on a boat in the Locks, with the salmon sometimes swirling around just under the surface. It must make a person feel a bit lightheaded.

        • lesliesinclair profile image
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          lesliesinclair 4 years ago

          @ColettaTeske: Me too, we occasionally visited the Locks as a family, but because my elderly grandmother was along it was usually a rather sedate trip. Now I'm happy to go with my camera.

        • davery77 profile image

          davery77 4 years ago

          I remember visiting the locks a number of years ago and seeing all the salmon jumping around at the bottom. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen!

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          ColettaTeske 4 years ago

          I enjoyed watching the boats go through the Locks as a kid. It really is a fascinating piece of engineering.