In the northern part of Washington you’ll find Lake Chelan, a sprawling waterway that’s the largest natural lake in the state. This picturesque lake and the towns surrounding it attract many tourists each year keen to enjoy the leisure activities the lake provides.
Water sports are understandably popular around Lake Chelan. You’ll find most of the action in the lower part of the lake, known as the Wapato Basin. Boaters enjoy cruising around the calm waters, whether they’re relaxing or towing a water skier, tuber or knee boarder. All that activity can make the waters a bit choppy for water skiers, especially during summer, so they’re advised to hit the lake early before the crowds arrive.
Further north you’ll find the Lucerne Basin, a much deeper part of the lake which is not used as frequently as it’s inaccessible by roads. If you like your solitude, that can be a very good thing. Here the lake acts as a kind of highway, leading to the 15 boat-in campgrounds dotted around the shore. The land here is unspoiled and pristine. There is only a sniff of civilization in these parts; the small town of Stehekin has less than one hundred locals, while Holden Village is a Christian retreat existing in harmony with the natural surrounds.
Folks have been fishing in the Chelan Lake since the first settlers arrived late in the 1800s, but the waterway is still teeming with seafood. Some of the largest lake trout in the state have been netted here, but you might also hook Chinook salmon, rainbow trout, and kokanee. As the fish are landlocked, the angling is superb all year round. Just make sure you pick up a fishing license and familiarize yourself with the local regulations before you bait your hook. The staff at Kelly’s ACE Hardware and Sporting Goods Store in Chelan and The Village Market in Manson can clue you in and organize a license before you set off.
Away from the water’s edge, Lake Chelan’s towns offer an antidote to the hustle and bustle of inner city America. The largest is Wenatchee, a township on the Columbia River known as the Apple Capital of the World for its many orchards. It offers much to tourists who enjoy the great outdoors, including tennis courts, an ice arena, golf courses, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The calm waters of the Columbia River are ideal for kayaking and water-skiing, while the choppier swell of the Wenatchee River attracts whitewater rafters and inner-tubing enthusiasts. In winter, nearby mountain ranges at Squilchuck State Park are perfect for riding a sled or snowmobile, while the slopes of Mission Ridge suit skiing and snowboarding.
But don’t dismiss the smaller towns in the Lake Chelan district. Their warmth and sense of community will make guests feel right at home. Stores in Chelan, Manson, and even Holden Village and Stehekin further north, showcase the wares of local craftspeople who love nothing better than chatting with locals and tourists alike.
The townsfolk of the Lake Chelan area come together several times each year for festivals. The music of the Lake Chelan Bach Fest in July and Rhythms at the Lake in September gets everyone’s toes tapping, while the Lake Chelan Rodeo on the third weekend of July guarantees to thrill.
In recent years the area’s wine industry has grown dramatically, and this is good news for the area. When you tire of activities on the lake you can enjoy wine from such wineries as Vin du Lac, Tsillan Cellars, and Benson Vineyards. There are currently 15 wineries operating in the Lake Chelan Wine Valley AVA.
A stay in Lake Chelan reminds us of a simpler way of life, one that embraces community and the beauty of the natural world around us.