Sep 6, 2022 - Things to Do

Prime fish-watching at the Locks

A toddler leans against the glass to watch fish climb the ladder at the Ballard Locks.
A toddler leans against the glass to watch fish climb the ladder at the Ballard Locks. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

Over Labor Day weekend, my son and I were able to see dozens of salmon climb the fish ladder at the Ballard Locks as they made the journey back to their freshwater spawning grounds.

  • September is the best time to see Coho salmon at the fish ladder, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the Locks.
  • That means you still have a few more weeks for prime salmon spectating!

Yes, but: if you are unlucky on the day you visit and see no salmon, there’s plenty else to do.

  • The elaborate locking mechanism — designed to stop the saltwater of Shilshole Bay from flowing into the (mostly) freshwater Salmon Bay — is fascinating to watch.
  • You'll see the gates open, then can watch the Locks lower and raise boats from one body of water to the other.
  • Don’t forget to check out the botanical garden, which is still in bloom.
A toddler leans against the glass to watch fish climb the ladder at the Ballard Locks. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

Pro tip: Through Sept. 30, free, hour-long tours are offered at 1pm and 3pm daily, with an additional 11am tour scheduled on weekends.

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