Tunnel tour of the Ballard Locks

A child’s tennis shoe.  Old tires.  A diamond bracelet.  Those are just some of the things that have been found on the floor of the Ballard Locks.  We were there today for an amazing tour that only happens once a year as crews do their annual maintenance while the locks are de-watered. 

Dru Butterfield from the US Army Corps of Engineers led today’s tour which included staff members from the offices of Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell.   The most interesting part of the tour took us through the tunnel system that runs the length of the locks.  In the video below, Butterfield tells us how the tunnels, or filling conduits, work.

After draining the large locks each year, workers scrape barnacles off the walls and make sure all of the mechanical systems are in good shape.  Getting rid of the barnacles is also incredibly important to the young salmon passing through the locks.  Those barnacles have been known to de-scale the fish.

In the video below, Butterfield shows us how the water level in the locks is raised.

The tour ended at the bottom of the gate that opens to Puget Sound, where a colorful collection of aquatic life has set up shop.

This part of the locks is also designed to dissipate the energy of the water as it rushes through the tunnels.  As Butterfield explains below, the water from one tunnel meets the water from the other tunnel to stage a dramatic water “fight.”


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Megan Noel
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Megan Noel

my grandmother went through those tunnels before the locks opened for the 1st time. she was 8. she was afraid they’d turn on the water and screamed the whole way! She lived in Ballard for most of her life.

Malia
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Malia

that was cool, and informative. Thank you!

LovrienS
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LovrienS

I wish I knew when these tours took place and how to participate in them…