Imagine starting out your day on a beautiful, deep blue lake aboard a leisure boat, floating by scenic landscapes of vineyards and fruit orchards, and finally arriving in the heart of a national park with the lake waters having turned a beautiful teal blue and tall, jagged mountains surrounding you, and then upon returning, spending a lovely evening sipping wine and enjoying dinner at a local winery. Is this possible, and where is this place?
Yes, it’s very possible, and the place is Lake Chelan, a deep, narrow, 55 mile long lake located in north-central Washington State, about a 3 hour drive east of Seattle. It is the largest natural lake in the state and the third deepest in the country. Lake Chlelan has been rapidly growing into a popular recreation destination. It is located in a valley full of orchards and vineyards and green hillsides. The modest sized city of Chelan is located at the southern end of the lake. At the upper end of the lake is Stehekin, a small community located within the boundaries of the North Cascades National Park. The only way in and out of this isolated area is by foot, by boat, or by seaplane. The area is located east of the Cascade Mountains and is not as wet as the west side of the mountains, therefore, expect warmer, much warmer and drier heat during the summer.
The photos in the slideshow above are from the Lady of the Lake II and the Lady Express tour boats that depart in Chelan and arrive in Stehekin. The Lady of the Lake II is the larger of the two and runs at a slower speed. The total time one way is four hours. There is a 90 minute layover in Stehekin. The Lady Express is a smaller, faster boat and takes two and a half hours to arrive in Stehekin. The layover is 60 mintues. At Stehekin, there is the Golden West Visitor Center with food available. There is also an optional Rainbow Falls tour. For complete information on boat tours and schedules, refer to the Lady of the Lake homepage. The Lake Chelan boat tour is one that I encourage anyone to take. The scenery is breathtaking! As the boat continues past the local orchards and vineyards, one gets to witness a tranformation of landscape as you travel farther north up the lake. Fertile hills change over to a drier and rockier landscape with pines, and then suddenly, mountains literally jut upward to the sky from the lake shore. The northern end of the lake originates in the North Cascade Range, a vast wilderness of jagged mountains and forests. Here, one part of the large Northern Cascades National Park complex begins. If you want to get an eye-popping bird’s eye view of the lake and mountains, take a Chelan seaplane excursion available from Lake Chelan’s airport.
Now what about that dinner with wine I mentioned at the beginning of this blog? There are over a dozen wineries in the Lake Chelan Wine Valley. After a day on the lake and in the mountains, relax with a glass of wine on the patio of one of the local wineries. Some even offer dinner. What a way to end a perfect day!