Sockeye video
Video Download 30 sec AVI file of salmon swimming through the Ballard Locks [3.4MB]
Viewing sockeye at the Ballard Locks
Viewing sockeye at the Ballard Locks
Eye-to-eye with a sockeye
Eye-to-eye with a sockeye

Viewing Opportunities

There are a number of opportunities to view sockeye salmon at locations in the Lake Washington Basin. The Ballard Locks provide an excellent location to view the sockeye in early summer as they return from their ocean migrations. Later in the fall, spawning sockeye can be viewing in several local streams.

Ballard Locks (June and July)

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (commonly known as the Ballard Locks) were constructed by the Corps of Engineers (COE) in 1916 to provide a navigation link between Lake Washington and Puget Sound. Migrating salmon and steelhead pass above the Locks by two routes; through a fishway or by accompanying boats as they are locked upstream. The fishway at the Locks was upgraded by the COE in the mid-1970s, and a Fish Viewing Gallery was made an integral part of the facility. The Fish Viewing Gallery consists of a number of underwater windows built into the upper end of the fishway, making it possible for visitors to view migrating sockeye and other salmon species. With the expectation that approximately 486,000 sockeye will return in 2004, this year will provide a great opportunity to “get eye-to-eye with a sockeye”. June and July are the primary months for viewing sockeye at the Ballard Locks. The Ballard Locks are located in northwest Seattle near where the Lake Washington Ship Canal enters Shilshole Bay and Puget Sound. For information call the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks Visitor Center in Seattle at (206) 783-7059.

Spawning Sockeye (September and October)

Spawning sockeye - Cedar River
Spawning sockeye in the Cedar River

The fall months provide opportunities to view sockeye salmon in area streams as they spawn and complete their life cycle. Most spawning activity occurs from mid-September through November, although the peak of spawner abundance is usually in mid- to late-October. Spawning sockeye can be recognized by their classic green head and red body color pattern. While sockeye spawners can be observed in many of the larger streams of the basin, the Cedar River provides the spawning grounds for approximately 90% of Lake Washington’s spawning run. Much of the land along the river is private property, and landowner rights must be respected. However, good sockeye viewing opportunities on the Cedar River are available in the City of Renton by the Library or adjacent to the airport, and at multiple bridge crossings along the entire river upstream to Maple Valley and Landsburg.