Most visitors to Lake Chelan  tend to think of it in terms of recreational opportunities, but in agricultural circles, the shores of the lake are much better known for the finest apples in the world. This isn’t a slogan created by the local community; Chelan  apples are known all over the world for their excellent taste, long shelf life, and vivid colors.
Gross income from the apple industry is in the $100 million-per-year range, and upwards of 10,000 acres are devoted to apple orchards. Most of these are relatively small, averaging 30 acres or less. Annual production is in the range of 8 million boxes. The most popular apples are Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, followed by the reddish-yellow Galas and the pinkish-red Fujis, an apple developed in Japan.
Nobody is quite sure why Chelan  apples are so much better than those grown only a few miles away. Some believe it is due to the soil, which was created by the retreating glaciers that carved the valley. Also, the lake helps moderate the air temperature, keeping the valley above freezing during most of the winter, and cooling things down in the summer.
This keeps the apples from being damaged by the heat, helping create a crisper and juicier apple that remains fresh longer in storage. Some also believe that the lake water used to irrigate the orchards contributes to the quality because it is colder than irrigation water used elsewhere.
Although apples are the major crop grown around the lake, some soft fruits are also grown. Scattered among the apple orchards are smaller plots of cherries, pears, apricots, and peaches.
Trout Blue Chelan (509/682-2591) gives free tours of its huge apple warehouses and packing sheds on the road to Chelan Falls. Call ahead to schedule a tour (not offered during the hectic Sept.–Oct. harvest period).
Sunshine Fruit Market (just west of town at the junction of Hwy. 97A and South Lakeshore, 509/682-5695) has a roadside fruit stand open every day during daylight hours in the summer.