Sea Kayak - Lake Washington Ship Canal


Sea Kayak - Lake Washington Ship Canal

Join us for an east-west paddle along the full length of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. This is a North Puget Sound Paddling Experience badge trip and requires a car/car-key swap with another group paddling the same route in the opposite direction. After signups are complete, we may have to re-balance paddlers between groups to ensure that the car-swap is effective.

  • Easy, Sea Kayak II+
  • Easy
  • Mileage: 12.0 mi
  • Maximum Wind: 15 kts
  • Maximum Waves: 3 ft
  • Maximum Currents: 3 kts
  • Pace: 3

The paddlers from both trips will rendezvous at 8:15 am at the south end of  the Lower Woodland Park Ball Fields parking lot (that is on the north west corner of N 50th Street and Green Lake Way N).  Here we will swap cars and move boats.  The aim of this swap is to ensure that your car is waiting for you at the end of your paddle, so you will, carefully, drive someone else's car to your starting point.  There are no tide or current concerns, so we will take our time to ensure we all get to our start points with the required equipment.  That being said, it takes 15 minutes to drive from the meeting location to the launches. We expect to be at the launches by about 9 am and starting our paddles by 9:30 ish. 

There are no crossings on this route and it is mostly protected from wind.  However, there can be strong 'currents' in the locks and significant waves/chop (up to 3 ft) can be experienced in the narrow Montlake Cut.  This is a busy waterway so we will need to paddle in tight groups to minimize our interactions with other traffic.

You'll be hard pressed to find another paddle with such a great variety of experiences.  From a built environment standpoint, you'll pass under four drawbridges, the Ship Canal Bridge (that carries I5) and the George Washington Memorial Bridge (that carries HWY 99), dodge hot tub boats (maybe) and float planes (certainly), while paddling past houseboats and viewing the iconic seattle skyline from Lake Union, and, finally, enjoy a lunch break at Gas Works Park.
From a natural environment point of view you may see otters, seals and sea lions on the Sound side of the locks.  In the inland waters you'll likely see bald eagles, great blue herons, wetlands, beaver lodges and a host of waterfowl.
We'll start at Concrete Beach and head south to Portage Bay where we'll start our journey through the canal at the Montlake Cut.  From there we'll pass through Union Bay, Lake Union, the Fremont Cut, Salmon Bay, and the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks before entering the Puget Sound in Shilshole Bay.  We should find our cars about two nautical miles north of the locks in Golden Gardens Park.  
Gas Works Park is mid-way through the paddle.  Our plan is to have a lunch break there and, hopefully, meet the contra-paddlers to return car keys.  However, the time to lock-through can be variable and is highly dependent on other traffic, so if lunch breaks don't overlap the key handoff may occur in passing on the water.
Note, there are many stopping opportunities along the way, but, to the best of our knowledge, the only convenient restrooms are at the launches and at Gas Works Park.  Please plan your hydration accordingly.  
A post paddle meetup may be organized so interested paddlers can share stories of the day.

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

These eight essentials plus The Ten Essentials are required on all sea kayaking trips.  All but the whistle and clothing should be provided with any kayak rental.

  1. Floatation in both ends of the kayak
  2. U.S. Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
  3. Paddle
  4. Spray skirt
  5. Bilge pump with floatation
  6. Self-rescue paddle float
  7. Waterproof whistle
  8. Appropriate clothing for the conditions encountered seasonally
Trip Reports