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 Boater Information for Chittenden Locks

Boater Information for Chittenden Locks (also known as Ballard Locks)

The locks are located at the entrance to Salmon Bay and the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle. More than 1 million people visit locks each year and if you haven’t been through the locks, a good place to begin is to join the crowd and observe others going through - and ask questions about things you are unsure of.

While you are at the locks, ask for a copy of "Guidelines for Boaters", a handy booklet that outlines what you need to know about locking through. The booklet covers such basics as the equipment required, where to wait, the traffic signals, priorities and the "locking through" process. Keep this handy in your boat, so you can refer to it. It is also very useful to help inform unseasoned guests or crew members.

Another great way to learn is to go through the locks with a fellow boater who has had the experience. You can either go as a deckhand on his or her boat or ask your friend to assist you in bringing your own boat through.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ navigation responsibilities are planning and constructing navigation channels, locks and dams, and dredging to maintain channel depths in U.S. harbors and inland waterways. We operate and maintain 25,000 miles of navigable channels and 196 commercial lock and dam sites and are responsible for harbors and waterways in 41 states. In partnership with local port authorities, our personnel oversee dredging and construction projects at hundreds of ports and harbors. Ten of 237 USACE locks are located in Northwestern Division — eight on the Columbia/Snake rivers, one on the Willamette River, and one at Lake Washington in Seattle. The Division also maintains 22 deep draft harbors, 20 shallow draft harbors and more than 1,700 miles of navigable waterways in the Columbia and Missouri basins.

Locking Through

The lockmaster has full authority over the movement of boats in the lock and its approaches.

If you're preparing to go through a lock, be sure your boat is equipped with at least two 50-foot lines, so you can moor your vessel to the floating morring bits (posts) on the lock chamber wall that move up and down as the water level rises or falls.

Safety is the prime consideration when lockaing any type of vessel through a lock. Operators must require all passengers to wear a coast guard approved life jacket, and make sure no one in your boat is standing on the foredeck or on the roof when you're passing through a lock.

It's best to learn as much as you can about a specific lock before you try to navigate through. Please select a log from below to learn about its locking through procedures.