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April 23, 2019

Lake Chelan Beaches: A Hidden Gem

It’s no secret that Lake Chelan gives us some of the best boating, fishing, and swimming opportunities in the state. You can also add beachcombing to that list of lake activities!

And it truly is a hidden gem—the beaches are hidden by water for most of the year! As the water levels rise and fall, the lake physically changes shape through the seasons, creating a different shoreline experience. In spring months, the water level drops about 10 feet lower, creating real beaches in a few locations along the lake. Don’t miss your chance to meander along these sandy stretches—and learn more about why they exist.

Beachcombing Basics

Grab your metal detector, your bucket, or just your running shoes: however you like to explore the beaches is fine with us! Look for unique rocks and shells, and take a moment to appreciate the shades of blue you can see as the water gets deeper. Here are a few of our favorite beaches—and our “secret” beach running route.

Lake Levels

There’s more to the lake level than meets the eye: the rise and fall occurs naturally as the seasons and weather conditions change. But additionally, the lake level is affected by the Lake Chelan Dam, in a carefully managed process that attempts to balance needs for recreation, protecting fish and wildlife, and power and water usage.

In a normal year, the lake level ranges from 1,064 to 1,100 feet above sea level. This can change depending on weather factors like rainfall or early/late snowmelt, as well as different project needs or energy market conditions, all monitored by the Chelan PUD.

Hydro History

Lake Chelan has been an important part of the areas of hydroelectric resources since the 1890s. Early dams were built on the outlet of the lake on the tiny Chelan River, originally to provide water for real estate development and navigation to the city of Chelan. The first dams were all washed out by flooding.

In the early 1900s, a dam was built for creating power, and Chelan officially had “the lights turned on” in 1903. In 1927, the Lake Chelan Hydro Project was completed, creating the dam and powerhouse used today.

As we use the lake as our favorite recreation and relaxation spot, it’s nice to remember how it helped to create the city of Chelan—and how important it still is today!

Plan a family trip to see The Lookout at Lake Chelan today.

By: Cara Rettig