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Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Ballard Locks

Launched from the 14th Ave NW boat ramp east of the Ballard Bridge. Paddled through the Ballard Locks. Then, toward West Point Light House and around to the base of the Magnolia Bluffs.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Shilshole Bay Tides:  Low - 9:29 am @ .22ft;  High - 4:24 pm @ 11.33 ft.

    Current near West Point Light House:  light and variable

    Winds:  Calm before noon.  Picked up to about 10 Knots in the afternoon.

    Waves:  0 ft

    Temp:  mid 60's in the morning.  Low 70's in the afternoon.

    Sunny but hazy with a few high clouds.

    Decent close-by parking if not too late.  Bathrooms at PCC.  But they need a password.  Probably busy during fishing season.



Great paddling day.  The fishing season must be over at this time because the Locks weren't too busy.  In the morning, around 10:30 am, we only waited 20 minutes and they had us rafted up 3 kayaks per row in the small Lock.  When we arrived at Shilshole Bay we decided to go toward West Point Lighthouse and toward Magnolia Bluff since the weather was great.  If the weather wasn't too good we would have paddled north toward the Marina and stayed behind the breakwater and towards Golden Gardens. We landed not too far from the cave that is at the base of Magnolia Bluff.  We had a leisurely lunch and then set off for the return trip.  Pretty good tide swing today so folks got to see the dramatic landscape change as the tide rose.  We saw seals and porpoises but unfortunately no sea lions. (Herschel has left the building). The Locks were a little busier in the afternoon.  We waited about 1/2 hour and they had us weave our way toward the front.  Bad day to try to quit breathing diesel fumes.  After exiting the Locks we paddled back to 14th Ave NW boat launch where the student practiced his self-rescue and assisted rescues with a willing grad who also wanted to practice rescues.  Really fun day with wonderful people.  Total mileage about 7.5 nautical miles.

How to paddle through the Locks:  it's free.  Double-check the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks website to make sure both small and large locks are working.  If they are most boats, including kayakers, go through the small Lock.  Kayakers need to be close to, but not in front of, the Lock opening.  It's a waiting game.  Lock personnel will call out to kayakers when they're ready for us.  The small Lock has floating side walls with bollards.  So, kayakers will be asked to raft up with the one closest to a bollard holding on to the bollard by hand or rope provided by the kayaker.  Holding on with one hand is usually good enough.  Once the lock opens there's usually minor water turbulence either from the water levels equalizing or from boats motoring out.  Not really a problem.  Just paddle.  I've never gone through the large lock.  That is usually used for gravel barges or really large boats.  The large lock doesn't have floating side walls.  Not sure how they would handle kayaks as the water level changes because during that time the water in the lock sloshes around a little.  The overflow weir (for lack of a better term) is next to and south of the small Lock.  Be mindful of it while waiting to be called to enter.  It can flow pretty good through there if there's a lot of water on the freshwater side.  Likewise, on the salt water side, water can get a little messy for about 50 yards past the weir.  On this day there was no water overflow being late in the season.

On a nice day you'll end up being in a lot of, most likely foreign, tourists pictures.  Be ready to smile, or not, and give the kayaker in front of you bunny ears.