Tag Archives: Ballard

Checking Out Seattle from the Air When Coming Home

A previous post included some aerial photos that I got when coming back into Seattle courtesy of an Alaska Airlines 737.  They were of some of the islands in Puget Sound.  As we got back to the city, we turned back towards the approach with a nice view of the locks at Ballard and the waterways into Lake Union.  A close-up view of the north end of Lake Union with Gasworks Park in the foreground and the university campus in the background came next and then a view of the south side of the city and off towards the east side of Lake Washington before we were back on the ground.

Crow and Gull Combat

When in the wild, you have two options for food.  First, you can find and catch your own.  Second, you can find someone else that has already found and caught some food, and you can steal it from them.  The latter is way easier than the former, provided you have the ability to relieve the owner of their meal.  I was walking alongside the water at the locks in Ballard one weekend and a crow was attempting to help a gull lose weight by taking its meal.  What followed was quite some aerial ballet and they twisted and turned with the gull trying to make sure it kept a good hold on its food while maneuvering hard to prevent the crow from taking anything.  The gull was ultimately successful in this case.

Kingfisher Fishing Successfully

When we visited Seattle not long after moving back to the US, I got a shot of a kingfisher as it sat on a cable at the locks in Ballard.  I guess this must be a good spot for kingfishers because, when we went down to see the boats, I found another kingfisher hanging out near where we parked.  The sound that they make is pretty distinctive and I heard it before I saw it.  It was sitting on a branch for quite a while before it dived down, grabbed something out of the water and landed on one of the wooden guides along the water to enjoy its snack.  I will have to spend more time down there and see if I can get some better shots of these speedy little critters.

Draining the Locks at Ballard

The gates on the locks in Ballard are getting old and they are due for replacement.  I had seen that they had drained the locks to start this process and went down to have a look.  However, they had finished the first phase of work and reopened the locks to traffic, so they were full again.  I was pretty disappointed but was told that there were more phases to come so I headed back at the beginning of the second phase.  They weren’t fully drained but most of the water was gone.  You could see the portals where the water flows when the locks are in use.

There are gates outside the normal gates which can be used to close off the water when the main gates need work done.  These were closed off.  The main gates are not the initial focus.  The intermediate gate is the first one to be replaced and it was already gone when I was there.  There will be more chances to check this out so I shall go back at some point.

Don’t Stand Under the Heron Rookery

The south side of the locks at Ballard has an area of trees along the water which is a heron rookery.  I have been there once when the herons were roosting.  That is not an appealing experience.  The herons are directly above the path and a lot of adult and juvenile birds in their nests results in an almost constant stream of “material” falling onto the bushes and path below.  It is perilous, the odor is intense and the ground underfoot is not as grippy as you might like.

In winter, the herons aren’t roosting, but the area is surprisingly unpleasant even then.  Some cormorants were up in the trees using it as a good spot for picking out their next fishing trip.  They did also imperil those below a little but not to the extent that the herons do.  The cold weather was doing a good job of suppressing the smell and also the slippery nature of the paths.  I took some images of a bench and the bushes which show just how much falls from above.  Heron chicks might be interesting to see but visit this location only when you know what you are letting yourself in for!

Rowing Near the Locks

A cold but sunny winter’s day at the locks in Ballard did not make me think that being on the water would be fun.  However, someone clearly had a different idea.  While I was walking around looking at the boats and the wildlife, a guy was out sculling in his boat.  He came quite close to the overflow from the sluice gates and had to work to position himself with the flow and turbulence from the water as it headed towards the sound.  It seemed like a very cold time to be out there, but I guess he was enjoying himself?

Rails on the End of the Bridge

The railway that runs from Seattle up to Everett and either on to Vancouver or east across the Cascades crosses a bridge that is just outside the locks at Ballard.  The bridge is a bascule bridge and, since there is quite regular boat traffic including sailing boats with high masts, it is frequently opened.  The low winter light does a nice job of illuminating the underside of the deck of the bridge when it is open.  I was more interested in the shapes at the end of the bridge where the rails end.  They are clearly shaped to interlock with the opposite rails on the bridge approach and also to have a shape which allows the wheels to smoothly pass over without some sudden impact forces.  As they stand up in the air, they strike me as rather fascinating.

Salmon Climbing The Ladder

The salmon that come through the locks in Ballard come in three waves according to the park rangers.  There are three types of salmon and each type comes at a slightly different time of year.  (I’m sure the sales like this so they get three feeding times!). Within the fish ladder, they have a viewing gallery which allows you to see the fish as they loiter for a while before surging up the next step in the ladder against the flowing water.

It is quite impressive to see how fast they can go when they make an effort.  They swim gently against the current in the viewing area waiting for a time that seems appropriate to them.  Then they align themselves with the inlet port through which the water is rushing.  This needs a dose of acceleration to avoid being pushed back into the gallery and then, once they are stabilized, a surge of effort and they zip up the port.  Photos don’t do it much justice but video is a better medium.  The reflections off the glass are not ideal but you will get the idea.

An Old Boat Through The Lock

We took a visit to the locks at Ballard on the 4th July weekend.  We had anticipated a ton of boat traffic for the holidays but we were wrong.  Maybe everyone was at home with family members.  The result was very limited traffic through the locks.  They were just using the smaller lock.  One boat that did make the traverse was a rather nice looking old wooden sailing boat.  I imagine it requires a fair bit of upkeep but it looked like the sort of boat that you could make relaxing trips in if you had a load of spare time.

Salmon Bay Bridge

The rail bridge just downstream of the locks at Ballard has been photographed by me many times.  However, recently I found myself on the south side of the bridge for the first time.  Why I haven’t been there before, I cannot say.  It puts you on the better side not only for the light but also for the angles.  The train crosses the road after it leaves the bridge so you can be more in line with the bridge or you can walk down to the shoreline and look back at it.  Needless to say, I did both!