Lake Washington, Washington, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Washington - Seattle & Puget Sound -

Lake Washington has the distinction of being the second largest natural lake in the state of Washington. This glacial lake is long and narrow, a “ribbon lake” that is approximately 15 miles long. Lake Washington is fed primarily by the Cedar River in the southeast corner and the Sammamish River in the northeast corner, along with other minor tributaries and creeks.

Prior to 1854, Lake Washington was called “Xacuabs” which means “great amount of water” by the native Duwamish people. In 1853 Congress authorized the creation of the Washington Territory, named in honor of President George Washington. Then, on July 4, 1854, Thomas Mercer suggested to the new settlers that they also rename the lake after the first president. A few weeks later it was officially passed, and the lake has been called Lake Washington ever since.

On September 1, 1911 under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Washington Ship Canal was begun to connect Lake Washington to the Puget Sound. The official grand opening for the 8.6-mile Lake Washington Ship Canal was on July 4, 1917, but vessels were passing through the canal prior to that date. To prevent the saltwater of Puget Sound from mixing with Lake Washington’s freshwater, and to maintain the water level of Lake Washington to that of the Puget Sound, a series of locks were built in the middle of the canal. These locks were named after the Seattle District Engineer for the Corps of Engineers from April 1906 to September 1908, U.S. Army Major Hiram M. Chittenden. Although today the locals call them the Ballard Locks because of their location next to the community of Ballard, the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Dam were officially registered on United States National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

The Army Corps of Engineers realized that the Chittenden Locks could hinder the spawning of returning salmon and steelhead, so they constructed a ten-step fish ladder to enable the fish to migrate back to Lake Washington and its tributaries. In 1976, a new 21-step fish ladder replaced the old one to create a more gradual incline. In addition, new technology allowed many advances to make more “attraction water” to help the fish locate the fish ladder. On the 18th step, they built an underwater viewing room with six lighted windows so visitors could watch as the sockeye, chinook, and coho salmon, as well as steelhead migrate through the ladder to their spawning waters.

Today the historical Lake Washington Ship Canal, Crittenden Locks and fish ladder are visited annually by over 1.5 million visitors. The Gift Shop and Visitor Center are open year round and offer free guided tours through the area from March 1 to November 30. Outside the Visitor Center is the Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Garden which offers a large number of plant species that are beautiful year round. From August to May, visitors may see harbor seal and sea lions “fishing” around the Locks, even though measures are taken to discourage their presence to protect the spawning steelhead.

Because Lake Washington’s depth and muddy bottoms would prevent placement of towers or support pilings, typical suspension bridges and causeways were not a viable means for vehicles crossing the lake. Three floating concrete bridges span Lake Washington by incorporating hollow concrete pontoons that float on the water and are anchored to each other with cables and to weights on the bottom of the lake. The road surface is then placed on top of these pontoons. Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, the longest floating bridge in the world, Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge, the second longest floating bridge in the world, and Third Lake Washington Bridge, the fifth longest floating bridge in the world, allow easy access for motorists to cross Lake Washington.

Bordered by Seattle and twelve other cities, demand for waterfront property is high. A majority of the Lake Washington shoreline is now classified as urban residential. However, Kenmore Air and Boeing Company along with a few smaller industrial developments claim a small amount of valuable shoreline. The only significant undeveloped shoreline is public land owned by the cities and used for parks and recreation areas.

Whether you go for the big city excitement, the historical significance, or just to enjoy the natural beauty, a visit to Lake Washington definitely will be a cherished memory.

Things to do at Lake Washington WA

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing

Fish species found at Lake Washington WA

  • Chinook Salmon
  • Coho Salmon
  • Salmon
  • Steelhead Trout

Lake Washington WA Photo Gallery

Lake Washington WA Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 21,500 acres

Shoreline Length: 50 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 22 feet

Average Depth: 108 feet

Maximum Depth: 214 feet

Water Volume: 2,350,000 acre-feet

Trophic State: #ref!

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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