Aug 14, 2014
Water traffic is all backed up at Seattle's Ballard Locks on a sunny summer afternoon. Fortunately, there are a pair of locks straddling this dam, and even the smaller of the two–the lock shown here–can handle a couple of dozen small craft at a time.
The larger of the Ballard Locks was designed to allow passage by the largest ocean liner in existence, which at that time (1911) was the Lusitania. However, by the time the locks opened to traffic in 1917, the Lusitania had been sunk.
The boats in the photo above are all headed away from the City of Seattle and out toward saltwater; Puget Sound is just beyond the downstream end of the lock. Back upstream are numerous wharves and marinas and a couple of lakes. Although the Port of Seattle that handles today's largest tankers and container ships is accessed directly from the Sound, pleasure craft and smaller ships carrying more than a million tons of cargo still pass through these locks each year, utilizing smaller ports along the Ship Canal, including the homeport of much of the Bering Sea fishing fleet.
Depending on the tides and the water level of the lakes inland, the locks here raise or lower boats about 15 to 30 feet.