The Lake Chelan Guide to Water Sports
Grab the gear, hitch up the trailer, and head to Lake Chelan when you want to escape to your own floating paradise. Whether you’re looking for high-speed thrills, letting the wind take your sails, or an anchored fishing float, Lake Chelan offers ample opportunities to get you and your watercraft wet. Located in the center of Washington State between National Forests and the Columbia River Valley, Lake Chelan stretches 55.5 miles from Chelan on the southeast shore to the remote village of Stehekin on the opposite northwest end and is the gateway to the North Cascades.
The lake is only 1.5 miles at its widest and boasts depths of over 1500 feet. This long thin sliver of a lake was carved by glaciers millions of years ago, and is still fed today mostly by glacial runoff from within the North Cascades National Park. The melting ice and snow makes its way down the valley flowing into Lake Chelan then on to the mighty Columbia River.
There are sections of the lake perfect for all types of water sports, from calm inlets to anchor up and fish or enjoy the views and soak up the rays on a sunny afternoon, to stretches for high speed powerboats for wake boarding, water skiing, tubing, and even parasailing. Raise the sails and catch the wind, especially up lake in the Lucerne Basin and near Stehekin where winds are the most consistent.
Prefer a more personal connection with the lake? Drop your canoe or kayak at the lake’s edge and get ready to paddle to your heart’s content. There’s so much lake to explore from rocky islands and high vertical bluffs, to uninhabited beaches and miles of natural untouched shoreline. Or, fire up the jet skis and soar across the lake with the wind in your hair and the water crashing at your feet.
From the low perspective of the water, enjoy spectacular views of rolling hills covered with fruit orchards, vineyards, and colorful wildflowers, towering ridgelines, and old-growth forests. The shimmering blue waters of Lake Chelan and the surrounding wilderness never disappoint.
There are 5 public boat launches along Lake Chelan, a couple year round and a couple seasonal, including at Riverwalk Park, Lake Chelan State Park, Lakeshore Marina, Old Mill Park, and Twenty-Five Mile Creek Campground. Below is a full map of launches, docks, pump-out, and refueling stations on Lake Chelan.
There are several businesses in the area that provide boating services and rent watercraft and water play accessories including boats, water skis, wakeboards, tubes, scuba gear, paddle boards, canoes, kayaks, fishing gear, and more. Make plans to spend a day on the lake with friends and family for a day full of adventure, relaxation, and endless fun. If the largeness of the lake seems a little intimidating, check out some of the smaller side lakes including Wapato Lake and Roses Lake near Manson, or the Chelan River easily accessed from Riverwalk Park in downtown Chelan.
With average summer daytime highs in the mid-80’s, and an average of 300 sunny days a year, chances are good that the weather will be absolutely gorgeous for your day on the lake. And with the length of our summer days, you can easily spend 12 hours or more on the water in a single day! Sunny days give way to beautiful red sunsets and gorgeous starry nights.
As with any boating activity, safety is a priority. Always remember to wear an approved personal flotation device, and observe the boat and water use regulations for the City of Chelan and Chelan County which are in place to help ensure everyone returns home safely. A brochure is available at the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, or by calling the Chelan County Sheriff at (509) 663-9911. Drivers of boats or personal watercraft must be at least 14 years of age, per Washington State regulations. State law requires boat operators to carry a Washington State Boater Education card when operating motorboats with 15 horsepower or greater (including personal watercraft or any motorized watercraft).
Boaters who use federal docks on Lake Chelan will be required to display a “Lake Chelan Federal Dock Site Permit.” A daily permit costs $5.00 while a season pass costs $40.00. Ten dock sites managed by the U.S. Forest Service and five by the National Park Service require dock site permits. Contact the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center for more information on obtaining dock site permits.
If you plan to fish, check with the Department of Fish and Wildlife for license requirements and limits at (360) 902-2200. The Lake Chelan fishing season is open year round and offers amazing opportunities to reel in up to 20 lbs Chinook Salmon and Lake Trout. Find out more about the amazing fishing opportunities at Lake Chelan.
See you on the water!