As students return to their classrooms this fall, the Pacific Salmon return to our region’s rivers and streams—embarking on an arduous journey to spawn and complete their lifestyle. And you can catch a glimpse of these majestic water warriors and their extraordinary voyage home at locations all around the Seattle area. Click through the gallery for a roundup of the best places to take your small fries to view the spectacular salmon, plus special events that celebrate their fall homecoming.

Ballard Locks, Seattle

From up above, your little fish finders will love watching boats of all shapes and sizes travel through the narrow isthmus of the Ballard Locks, which connects the Puget Sound to Lake Washington, via the Ship Canal. Also keep your eyes peeled for seals and sea lions hoping to catch their lunch. But hidden beneath the surface is where the water comes alive. Throughout the summer and fall, you can spot Pacific salmon bypassing the locks by migrating up a 21-step fish ladder located adjacent to the boat passageway. Kids love peering through the set of subaquatic viewing windows as they watch the sockeye, chinook and coho use their keen sense of smell to navigate back to the rivers from where they were hatched.

Bonus: After hanging out with the fishes, be sure to stop by the visitor’s center where you’ll find information about the locks and a gift shop. Burn some energy by taking a stroll through the Carl S. English Botanical Gardens.

When: Open Daily, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Visitor Center is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. See the sockeye swim June/July; chinook and coho Sep./Oct. Free, hour-long naturalist talks and tours are provided daily through Sep. 30, 2017. Mon.– Fri., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. & 3 p.m. During Oct. and Nov., tours depart Thurs.– Mon. at 2 p.m. Call or check-in at the visitor’s center for details.

Parking: Free parking can be found in the neighborhoods north and south of Ballard Locks or in the parking lot and neighboring streets on the Magnolia side. Paid parking is also available in a lot at the north entrance.

Ballard Locks
3015 N.W. 54th St.
Ballard, Wa 98107

photo: Hiram M. Chittenden Locks - Ballard Locks Facebook page

Salmon Watching Tips:
1. Spawning marks the end of the line for the Pacific salmon and there’s a chance you and your brood might come across fish carcasses while visiting the rivers. Be sure to keep curious kiddos from disturbing their bodies, as they serve a valuable purpose for our environment.

2. Everyone knows that kids attract mud, water and dirt, so plan ahead and bring extra clothes. Make sure the minis also wear boots or shoes that can be easily cleaned.

3. Get up close and personal! Bring binoculars if you have them.

Have you taken your crew salmon spotting before? Where is your favorite place? Tell us in the comments below!

— Abbey McGee & Rachael Brandon