Lake Washington Ship Canal

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Chittenden Locks and Lake Washington Ship Canal
Lake Washington Ship Canal map.png
Location Salmon Bay, Seattle, Washington
Built 1911-1934
Architect Multiple
Architectural style Late 19th And 20th Century Revivals, Other
NRHP Reference # 78002751 [1]
Added to NRHP December 14, 1978

The Lake Washington Ship Canal, which runs through the city of Seattle, Washington, connects the fresh water body of Lake Washington with the salt water inland sea of Puget Sound. The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks accommodate the approximately 20-foot difference in water level between Lake Washington and the Sound. The Canal runs east/west, and connects Union Bay, Lake Union, the Montlake Cut, Portage Bay, the Fremont Cut, Salmon Bay, and Shilshole Bay, with the Sound, which empties into the Pacific Ocean.


Lake Washington Ship Canal and the Black River, showing course of river in 2013 and before 1916

The ship canal project began in 1911 and was officially completed in 1934. Prior to construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, otherwise known as the Salmon Bay Waterway, water used to exit Lake Washington via the Black River which flowed from the south end of Lake Washington into the Duwamish River.

As early as 1854, there was discussion of building a navigable connection between Lake Washington and Puget Sound for the purpose of transporting logs, milled lumber, and fishing vessels. Thirteen years later, the United States Navy endorsed a canal project, which included a plan for building a naval shipyard on Lake Washington. In 1891 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started planning the project. Some preliminary work was begun in 1906, and work began in earnest five years later. The delays in canal planning and construction resulted in the U.S. Navy building the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, which is located across the Sound from Seattle.

Canal crossings[edit]

View of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.

The Canal's crossings, from east to west, are:

Seattle's waterways before the canal was built. (Note: It is likely that this map is incorrectly labeled as "1902".)[2]
Seattle's waterways in the 1990s, showing the effect of the canal (and of other projects, such as the undergrounding of many streams and the re-routing, dredging, and industrialization of the Duwamish River). (The map remains essentially accurate as of 2009.)

Seattle landmarks[edit]

The Lake Washington Ship Canal and the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Montlake Cut, along with the Montlake Bridge are City of Seattle Designated Landmarks (ID #107995).[3]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ Salmon Bay Harbor Map, Seattle Public Library, SEAMAP G4284.S4 P53 1892.S6
  3. ^ Landmarks Alphabetical Listing for M, Individual Landmarks, Department of Neighborhoods, City of Seattle. Accessed December 28, 2007.

Coordinates: 47°38′35″N 122°20′05″W / 47.64319°N 122.33482°W / 47.64319; -122.33482