Lake Chelan (sha-LAN) occupies a long, glacially carved valley on the eastern edge of the Cascades. The town of Chelan sits on the southeast shore of the lake; Manson is seven miles northwest, and tiny Stehekin 55 miles away on the north shore. Stehekin is the only town on the Washington mainland that cannot be reached by road.
Lake Chelan is one of Washington’s favorite summer playgrounds, offering resort accommodations, fine restaurants, water-skiing, swimming, and boating, but also delivering magnificent wilderness country just a boat ride away. Over the years the Chelan area has developed into a resort community that has managed to retain its small-town charm.
It’s still a genuine town with real orchardists, farmers, wilderness outfitters, and forest and park rangers standing in line with you in the grocery checkout line. Your children can meet and play with the children of residents and visitors from all over the world. Few other small towns in Washington have such a wide cross-section of people.
The vast majority of the Lake Chelan watershed is in public ownership and not open to major development, but such is not the case on the privately held portions. Here, the lake’s popularity may prove its undoing. Tacky developments of all sorts are packing the shoreline between Chelan and Manson, as time-share condos, elaborate resorts, ranch-style homes, retirement villas, and summer cottages crowd up the hillsides and through the apple orchards. The first orchard in the area—at Wapato Point—is now the site of the elaborate Wapato Point Resort.
Getting to Chelan
Chelan Airways (509/682-5065, www.chelanairways.com) offers daily seaplane service to Stehekin, Domke Lake, and other up-lake destinations, plus sightseeing flights over Lake Chelan and Stehekin Valley. The nearest airport with air service to larger cities is in Wenatchee.
Link (509/662-1155 or 800/851-5465, www.linktransit.com, Mon.–Fri., $1 to Wenatchee, $2 to Leavenworth) has bus routes covering Chelan and Douglas Counties, including the towns of Chelan, Manson, Wenatchee, and Leavenworth. You can put your skis on the bus in Chelan and ride to Wenatchee, then change to Route 40 and ski at Mission Ridge. Or put your bicycle on the special racks and ride anywhere one-way and pedal back.
No long distance bus service operates to Chelan, but you can catch the Link bus to Wenatchee for connections to Northwest Trailways and Amtrak.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition