Every summer thousands of king, coho and sockeye salmon return to Puget Sound on their journey home to spawn in the streams and rivers around Seattle. After hatching in these waters, they spend the majority of their lives in the Pacific Ocean, where they build up layers of fat to fuel them for the epic battle upstream. You can witness this fascinating annual migration first-hand from June through September by paying a visit to the Ballard Locks.
The locks were built in 1917 by the Army Corps of Engineers to manage the flow of water between the Puget Sound and Salmon Bay. Since this is the entry point for salmon to migrate to their freshwater spawning beds, the locks were designed with a fish ladder, which provides a gradual incline from the salt waters of the sound to the fresh waters of the bay, some 20 feet higher in elevation. Watching the salmon make their way through the locks reminds us how precious this natural resource is, and how we are so closely interconnected. It’s also a relaxing place to go for a walk, and watch the parade of pleasure boats and fishing trawlers as they make their way to Puget Sound and beyond. The visitors center is open daily from 10am to 6pm during the summer and has informative exhibits where you can learn about the history of the locks, and how to identify the different species of salmon that pass through them. Free public tours are offered at 1pm and 3pm daily.
While you’re in the neighborhood, check out another Seattle icon and enjoy a latte at Java Bean Espresso. It began as a small coffee cart in 1989, long before Starbucks became ubiquitous, and serves only fair-trade, shade-grown organic coffee. It has stayed true to its roots, preparing hand-pulled espresso, crafted by skilled baristas – you’ll find no automatic espresso machines here! Relax at a table in their cozy café, decorated with vintage mountaineering memorabilia and enjoy a taste of the real Northwest.