Description - Lake Chelan National Recreation Area encompasses 62,000 acres, resting in a glacially carved trough in the eastern Cascade Range. Lake Chelan, the focal point of recreation, is fed by streams and glaciers and reaches a depth of 1,500 feet (450 meters), making it the third deepest lake in the nation next to Lake Tahoe and Crater Lake. Although the average width is less than two miles (3.2 kilometers), Lake Chelan extends almost 55 miles (88 kilometers) into the Cascade Mountains. At its deepest point Lake Chelan drops to 400 feet (120 meters) below sea level. The northernmost four miles (6.4 kilometers) of this lake are in the National Recreation Area, including the remote community of Stehekin and the magnificent Stehekin River Valley.
The Golden West Visitor Center is a good place to begin your visit to Lake Chelan. From this point you can learn of hiking, biking, equestrian, camping and boating pursuits that fit your interests. The visitor center is staffed by park rangers from Mid-March through Mid-October. Backcountry permits are available at this site which also provides information on the surrounding geology, flora and fauna. A gallery of local artists works is also open on this site.
It should be noted that all campgrounds in Lake Chelan NRA are primitive, backcountry campsites. All campsites in the Stehekin Valley require a free permit, which can be obtained at the Golden West Visitor Center. Group camping is available at Harlequin and Bridge Creek with advanced reservations.
Recreation - To enter this National Recreation Area(NRA) you must bike, hike, fly or boat. There is no access road for vehicles into this portion of the North Cascades National Park Complex. Many visitors take a commercial boat trip to the small community of Stehekin from larger communities on the south shore of the lake. From Stehekin a shuttle bus, either National Park Service or privately administered, will take visitors to points along the northern lake shore (reservations are required).
Climate - Because this portion of the park lies on the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountain range the climate is very different than the terrain on the western side of the range. The low elevation of the terrain surrounding the lake also contributes to the mild weather experienced here. In general the Lake Chelan area is warmer and more arid than areas west. It lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountain Range, which allows for nearly 300 days of sunshine per year. On average there is less than a month of days when the temperature reaches below freezing and roughly the same amount of days reaching highs above 90 degrees F.
Lake Chelan National Recreation Area lies in the eastern Cascade Mountain Range in north central Washington. The National Recreation Area encompasses the northern third of Lake Chelan.