A rare look at the Ballard Locks

Each year the Corps of Engineers “de-waters” the Ballard Locks, which is the official term for letting the water out, to scrape barnacles off the walls and make sure all the mechanical systems are working properly.

This morning I had the opportunity to climb 55 feet down the scaffolding to the bottom of the large Lock and see the structure from a rare point of view.

Here’s a short video clip (above) taken inside to give a sense of perspective.

Dru Butterfield, the Natural Resource Manager at the Locks led the tour. He took the small group into the filling conduits, or tunnels, along the side of the large locks, where volunteers are busy scraping barnacles off the walls. The sound of the scraping is deafening and the smell is eye-watering.

“The reason we hand-scrape barnacles is because we haven’t found a way to mechanically remove them that is more efficient than scraping them,” Butterfield says, “and we haven’t found any chemical that we can use that isn’t hazardous to the fish.”

Here’s some video above of the scraping in the filling conduit. (It’s a little loud. Make sure your audio is turned down before playing.)

It’s important for the barnacles to get scraped each year so juvenile fish don’t get de-scaled or injured as they make their way to the sea.

On the other side of those gates is 45 feet of fresh water pushing hard to get into the empty space where we’re standing. Thankfully the gates don’t budge.

When the Locks were first built back in the early 1900’s the gates used pulley systems. With the water gone, we got a glimpse of the old pulleys.

The Locks will be “de-watered” until November 25th.

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LovrienS
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LovrienS

Wow! A great shot of a wonderful piece of engineering.

NoraBell
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NoraBell

Stunning view. After all these years I still love going to the locks.

Chocolate_Lab
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Chocolate_Lab

THANKS to all the volunteers!

CM
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CM

Next year they need to call Mike Rowe from “Dirty Jobs” to help scrape off the barnacles – looks like this would make a fun episode. :)

back2ballard
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back2ballard

I agree, that would be a good episode for Dirty Jobs. Cool pics! How long will it be “dewatered”?

boardbrown
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boardbrown

Cool space for a party! Let the wild rumpus start.

cyclistandSUVdriver
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cyclistandSUVdriver

Super cool – thanks Geeky Swedes! I'm green with envy (and maybe a seaweedy barnacle or two)

SeattleMoms DealFinder
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Cool post! Love it!

BTown
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BTown

I posted the “Ballard Lock” cleanup as a official suggestion to Dirty Jobs last year and the year before but they had already done another locations “locks” cleanup show.

kim
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kim

some of the best neighborly footage of the going on's in our backyard. thanks so much for putting this together.

juan grande
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Until somebody drinks too much and pulls the wrong lever…

Jules
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Jules

Did you know that the Locks are the third biggest tourist attraction in Seattle, right after Pioneer Square and the Space Needle? Also the third bggest in WA State, after Mt. Rainier, then the Space Needle. And in our own back yard, too. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.It really is one of the “engineering wonders of the world.”
One of my pals, Adam Woog, wrote a book on it, available aat their gift shop.The photos of them building the locks are quite amazing. (as well as the pictures of people getting boats stuck in their sideways, etc.)

http://www.amazon.com/Ballard-Locks-Images-Amer

Boatgeek
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Boatgeek

As long as we're in trivia mode, it's also the most heavily-trafficked lock system in the US. And those are the original 1917 doors, built to last!

foop
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foop

How do you get a tour of the locks?

jwalseth
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jwalseth

Spectacular pictures! I hope I can get down there while this persists. I usually ride through every day from Magnolia but the path has been closed from the Magnolia side.

bellie
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bellie

Wonderful! Neat to see this view of the Locks! I'm jealous ;)!

ktown69
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ktown69

Really great story and images.

facebook-536882410
Guest

I am so impressed by the Ballard Locks and the volunteers who are hand-scraping the walls !!! It really restores my faith in the human spirit that the cleaning is done with such enthusiasm —- for the sake of the environment !

My son now works out of Washington State and lives near the locks and I have been researching them as an artist –originally to paint a canvas for him …. the more I research , I am so VERY proud of the state of Washington for their dedication to the value of our earth and the creatures that make it so beautiful !!!!! I enjoyed seeing the locks drained – and the videos !

Silver
Guest

Yeah! Whose barnacles did you have to scrape to get a tour???

Mondoman
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Mondoman

I've never seen detailed Locks coverage with photos and video like this in the traditional media — great job GS!

HeardOnthe44
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HeardOnthe44

Thank you Geeky Swedes!

These photos….are SOOOOOO Cool! I have oft wondered and pondered about what it all looks like …de-watered!

The engineering of these locks is awesome and the volunteers: You Rock!

Is there a waiting list to sign up for the barnacle scrubbing? Seriously, this would be a really interesting project to get to be a part of…even if for one year.

datajunkie
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datajunkie

There was a ridiculous amount of crows and seagulls there a few days ago. It felt like I was in the movie The Birds. I snap a couple of pictures:
http://yfrog.com/16dscn0950nj
http://yfrog.com/jddscn0947j

datajunkie
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datajunkie

They are also doing construction at that entrance, you can still go through if you go down the stairs to the bottom entrance. See myballard article: http://www.myballard.com/2009/11/10/sidewalk-co

Tony DeVita
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Thanks for the great images

jwalseth
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jwalseth

For those coming from the Magnolia side, work on the sidewalk is done (ahead of schedule) so you can now walk/ride across. The lock is still drained as of this morning.