Written by El Gallo on 10 Oct, 2000
Before mentioning the Lady Boats that make the runs, let me say a little bit about the lake itself. 'Blue Chelan' is accepted as the most pristine open water in the country. Though part of the 'clear blue' water reputation, it turns out,…Read More
Before mentioning the Lady Boats that make the runs, let me say a little bit about the lake itself. 'Blue Chelan' is accepted as the most pristine open water in the country. Though part of the 'clear blue' water reputation, it turns out, was because copper tailings from mines at Holden killed micro-organisms of the kind that cause green water in other lakes. The Chelan Valley is the deepest gorge in North America, surrounded by 9000 foot mountains, with the glacier-carved lake itself over 1400 feet deep (third deepest in the U.S.), the bottom 400 feet actually below sea level. 27 glaciers and 57 creeks feed the lake, whose shoreline is maintained by the damn down at Chelan.
The lake provides a unique passageway into deep wilderness--it would take weeks to hike into Stehekin if the lake were not there. Stehekin, by the way, is the only town in mainland Washington that has no road leading in to it--you get here by boat. Lucerne and Holden village are the same. The Lady of the Lake stops off and delivers mail, the stores take orders from residents and have the orders sent up on the boat. Point of purchase offers and impulse buying are minimal here. The uplake end, at Stehekin, is remote and almost eerily clean. You get off the boat and notice an odd smell, which you finally identify as fresh air, unpolluted, unsmogged, unsmoked. It can cause euphoria.
The headwaters are in the North Cascades National Park, a new, wild, rugged chunk of upthrust. It's the largest and most rugged alpine wilderness in the United States (outside of Alaska, which is just generally large and rugged, even the women). It is an above-the-treeline sort of place scored by over 400 glaciers and punctuated by dozens of 9000 foot peaks. Virgin douglas fir and red cedar forests harbor wildlife including gray wolves and grizzly bears. An idea of the terrain can be read right off a map--Desolation Peak, Mount Fury, Jagged Ridge, Mount Terror. And when you step off the boat in Stehekin, you are right there in it--just start walking uphill.
There are only about 70 residents of Stehekin, and you can be one of them for a night or two in the North Cascades Stehekin Lodge. They have 28 units of tranquility (no phone, no TV, no cars, no news) some with kitchens, ranging from $90-129 a night. There are also some fun seasonal packages, like an autumn leaf weekend; snowshoe, bike, XC ski, and rafting junkets; and unusual stuff like their Moonlight Snowshoe outing, with bonfire and frivolity. These run about $199-299 for two.
Contact the Lodge at 509-682-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, about those Lady Boats. The Boat Company has been running people uplake for over 100 years, but they keep up with the times. The Lady of the Lake is a big 350 passenger job with viewing decks, which makes a liesurely trip up the lake, stopping in Manson and Lucerne and Holden and Stehekin. It's a whole day thing, as it should be. $23 round trip.
The newer-fangled Lady Express does it in half the time. You can kill time FASTER! $42 TR in May-October, $23 November-April.
For those who can only handle calm and leisure at ultra turbo high speed, there is now the Lady Cat, a high-powered speedboat that looks like a liveboat on the Starship Enterprize and does the trip in an hour for like $90. Free 'Type A Yuppie Scum' T-shirt thrown in.
The downlake end of the Chelan Valley is crammed with motels, hotels, resorts, condos, rental houses, bed & breakfasts, while uplake there are only a few resort lodges. But the real fun, for my money, is in between--canoeing up and camping at the string…Read More
The downlake end of the Chelan Valley is crammed with motels, hotels, resorts, condos, rental houses, bed & breakfasts, while uplake there are only a few resort lodges. But the real fun, for my money, is in between--canoeing up and camping at the string of campsites that are only accessible by boat. They are nicely spaced to allow a trip up lake and back, and provide a great place to stay for awhile and explore the mountains above. Do a little fishing and hanging out in a place with no cars and where nobody is going to suddenly walk up on you.
These are thought of as fairly primitive sights by the Park Service and Forest Service, but I call them pretty luxurious--they even have toilets. The shelters are great. Only trouble is, you don't get as many canoes and kayaks here as you get skiboats full of dickheads or houseboats full of Flintstones and Kids. But after labor day it gets nicer. A nice time at the lake in general--after school starts, but still nice enough to swim down by Manson, a bite in the night and color in the leaves.
Big Creek has 1 permanent shelter and 4 tent sites, a double outhouse, 4 picnic tables and fire rings, and a dock for about 4 boats (or a bunch of canoes). I've never stayed at Corral Creek, but it's about the same size. Deer Point has 5 tent sites and good shelter from downlake winds, but NONE from uplake winds. This is significant in the 'Narrows' of the lake, where winds get funneled in by the steep, high surrounding cliffs and can blow your bootie away. I watched my girlfriend get dragged 40 feet before she gave up and let go of our 8x10 tent one time. (once she let go, it settled down) And I once saw a guy open his front door and have the wind just blow the seams out of the back of his two man tent. You gotta be ready for wind...if it isn't blowing now, it will. I had to spend three days at Big Creek once because high winds made it impossible to take off in my overloaded canoe. (Fortunately part of the load was one of the nastiest girlfriends I've ever had the pleasure of, so we whiled the time away. She even managed to shoot some fish with my bow, stalking naked along the shore with a 50 pound compound loaded for bear.)
Domke Falls, where the outflow from Domke Lake makes it down to Lake Chelan is a very nice spot with 4 tent sites, a floating dock (which makes it better in winter than a fixed dock) and some pretty good fishing right there at the campsite. Graham Harbor has a huge floating doc and 5 tent sites, with a permanent shelter. The Lucerne site, right by the Forest Service Station, has a big dock and lots of tables, but isn't really much of a camp spot--same goes for Mitchell Creek. Refrigerator Point is a good one, with 4 tent sites, 4 tables and 2 toilets, Safety Harbor is almost identical--and probably the best wind-sheltered of all the campgrounds. I spent four days here in February once, huddled around a fire in 20 below weather when a ling cod line-fishing trip got snafued--we didn't react soon enough to the Lady of the Lake passing and her wake swamped out canoe and soaked all our stuff (except the clothes on our back, which we soaked ourselves trying to rescue the rest of the stuff). I'm sure Patrick McManus could have made it funny, but were able to contain our laughter while trying to make a fire quick enough to keep from freezing to death. I was afraid my fishing partner was going to kill me so she could warm her hands in my carcass. I wouldn't have put it past her. Anyway, we survived. Close
Written by El Gallo on 09 Oct, 2000
The Lady of the Lake boats (why do they call them that on every damn lake in the country?) provide wonderful access to the Uplake wilderness, but there's a cooler way to go if you can afford it--seaplane. And not only to Stehekin and…Read More
The Lady of the Lake boats (why do they call them that on every damn lake in the country?) provide wonderful access to the Uplake wilderness, but there's a cooler way to go if you can afford it--seaplane. And not only to Stehekin and Holden, either. You can get them to drop you off at Domke Lake or other remote tarns where you will be flat ALONE and ISOLATED. Especially impressive in winter. Fortunately you can also arrange for them to pick you up and take you out. These guys have been doing this forever and have a perfect safety record (or so they claim). You get on down in the bustling resort atmosphere of Chelan, then lift over all that, and the acres of apple orchards, and immediately start passing over vast, empty mountains. You get off in the middle of nowhere. Which, as you might know, is the center of everywhere.There are a lot of different trips and fares. The basic ride up the lake with a short stop in Stehekin is $100. Once in Stehekin by whatever means you can take a bird's eye cruise of the mountains for $80. The Super Tour for $150 is an eye-popping overflight of the Cascades, including strafing glaciers, cruising dramatic waterfalls, threading through steep, sharp, bald peaks. Photographers will go absolutely nuts. A great way to go is a 'Combo', which is uplake by boat and back by seaplane. Best of all the 'Ultimate Combo' which includes that plus the Super tour mentioned above for $150. This is not just a scenic tour, this is an impactive experience that can totally blow your set, maybe change your life, depending on the quality of your present life.
Box W. Chelan, WA 98816
Written by cvyoung on 07 Jan, 2004
We have traveled to Lake Chelan several times, and each time leave a bit undone to draw us back again. We have used our timeshare swapping capability, tent camped, and used a hotel (by far the least desirable, although the hotel was nice). Each season…Read More
We have traveled to Lake Chelan several times, and each time leave a bit undone to draw us back again. We have used our timeshare swapping capability, tent camped, and used a hotel (by far the least desirable, although the hotel was nice). Each season has different attractions: Winter has cross-country skiing, hiking and fishing. Spring has more hiking, fishing and watching the young wildlife. Summer has boating, swimming, kayaking, waterskiing, jet skis, and all the other water sports (and hiking, fishing, etc.), and the fall has all the gorgeous foliage to see (and don't forget the hiking!). One of the fun things to do on the way to or from Lake Chelan in the fall is to stop in at one of the many apple cooperatives and see how the apples are sorted, graded, and prepared for market. We do that, and then buy our apples direct from the farmer, fresh off the tree. Delightful! Close
Written by joinoly on 26 Jul, 2003
Wapato Point has a new winery. Their specialty is a Pinot Gris that is to die for. They also have an absolutely wonderful 2000 Syrah that is worth every penny of the $40 price tag. They are also offering a Red Delicious that is good…Read More
Wapato Point has a new winery. Their specialty is a Pinot Gris that is to die for. They also have an absolutely wonderful 2000 Syrah that is worth every penny of the $40 price tag. They are also offering a Red Delicious that is good with anything, as well as a late harvest Reisling. The owner's son discovered the vineyard for the grapes of the latter and it is superb served slightly chilled. The winery offers tastings from 11am-7pm daily. I highly recommend their "Wine Social", which includes heavy hors d'oevres and a harpist. It is nice to take home a bit of Chelan in the form of several fine bottles of wine! Close
Written by andyandcarla on 17 Sep, 2006
Lake Chelan is a fantastic place to go for a weekend winery tour! They have 12-18 wineries which are open 6 days a week for various hours a day. Most of them have great sitting areas to enjoy some bread and cheese, while tasting some…Read More
Lake Chelan is a fantastic place to go for a weekend winery tour! They have 12-18 wineries which are open 6 days a week for various hours a day. Most of them have great sitting areas to enjoy some bread and cheese, while tasting some wines. It is great! Most wines are good, some are excellent! This was our first time to go the Lake Chelan winery loop, so we don't have a favorite yet but, most people could easily find a winery with an atmosphere that speaks to you. They are wonderful! Additionally, the usually isn't a "tasting fee" but if there is... they will credit it towards any purchases (which you will do). Enjoy your time in Lake Chelan by tasting some wine! Close