Sept 23, 1904
The Lake Chelan Country
Taken from the Sports Afield:
See once the wonders and glories of Lake Chelan: then roam no more – no more remains on earth for cultured eyes to see – with hearty apologies to Joaquin Miller.
Nestled close down between wild, rocky hills, fed by a thousand glacial streams and drained by a single river, Lake Chelan lies like a jewel, rare dropped from the ocean’s casket there – a jewel for man to travel far to see, and, having seen, to remain and marvel at.
Although our great west has become noted for its beautiful scenery, it still remains true that some of the most wonderful sections – some of Nature’s mmost extraordinary wonderlands – still remain practically unknown to the travelling public. Of these neglected and but little known places, most worthy of all to be classed with the Yosemite and Yellowstone, is Lake Chelan. This lake lies in the central part of Washington, midway between Seattle and Spokane and 40 miles north and up the Columbia River from the Great Northern Railroad. The most advisable route to Lake Chelan is by the Great Norther from Seattle or Spokane to Wenatchee, and from Wenatchee it is but 40 miles up the Columbia River by steamboat to Chelan Falls landing, where stages meet all boats and a fascinating drive up three miles lands the traveler in the thriving little town of Chelan, located at the foot of the lake.
Lake Chelan is a body of glacial water 1600 feet deep, lying in the very heart of the Cascade Mountains. Its surface is about 1100 feet above sea level – the bed of the lake being about 500 feet below the level of the sea. It occupies a basin ploughed out by some gigantic glacier many centuries ago. The sheer mountain walls, rising from the water’s edge and terminating in ragged saw teeth thousands of feet in the sky, are again reflected in the crystal bosom of the waters – thus mirroring a picture of themselves at once grand and beautiful. The lake itself is only about 60 miles long, and from one to three miles wide, but the basin, of which the lake occupies the center, is over 100 miles long and at its upper part, some 6000 feet deep.
Yet it is not the lake alone that is a sight worth travelling the wide world round to see – for this is only the beginning. Back from the head of the lake, back up to the head of the basin at the summit, where the waters divide and where one looks down upon an endless sea of mountain peaks with their glorified pinnacles, rock bound glaciers and riven snows, is to be found a sight of grandeur that the far-famed Alps could scarcely duplicate.
From the foot of the lake the foothills rise in gentle undulations, each climbing higher than its predecessor, until 100 miles away, in the azure sky, a chain of glacier peaks and snow bound pinnacles show where the lake is cradled. From the boat that plies daily, during the summer season from Chelan to the head of the lake, the sight-see-er can readily discern for himself the source from which these waters come. The Stehekin river, which probably contributes more than any other one stream, empties in at the head of the lake, heading far up near the head of the basin, but a short distance from the divide. Property speaking, the Stehekin river heads in Doubtful lake, one of the most peculiar of our northwestern lakes. Of unknown depth, Doubtful lake occupies an extinct crater, and the bridge of snow that affords passageway across the lake during the summer season, is a marvel in itself. The Horseshoe Basin, about 20 miles up from the head of the lake, is another wonderland. Artists have tried to depict it on canvas, but while their works are beautiful to behold, yet their canvasses tell not half the story, for seeing only is beholding, and to behold is to believe that neither words nor canvas can ever tell. From Stehekin pack trains ply regularly to the summit, the divide and to Doubtful lake; the tourist may either take tents and provisions and remain for any length of time desired at any of these places, or the pack train will see to their comfort for the round trip if only going, seeing and returning is desired. There is no more delightful camping ground or point of exploration than Doubtful lake. With it as headquarters, the summit may be reached and glaciers explored in a single day’s climb. But if one desires an ideal camping ground, combined with a vantage point from which at close range an active glacier may be safely viewed, Holden Park and the Isalla Glacier, sixteen miles up Railroad creek, offer this opportunity. Isalla Glacier is in places a thousand feet deep and two miles wide and its incessant gridding and explosions of breaking ice are awe-inspiring in the extreme. Holden Park is located just across from the glacier – as the bird flies, only a quarter of a mile, but the deep chasm that separates them gives the impression of much greater distance as one gazes down into the beautiful lake so far below.
From a quiet camp in Holden Park, if one be on the lookout, mountain goats may be seen daily; for it is here that the goats still love to feed during the summer months, and with the naked eye their zig-zag trails are plainly discernible across the glacier about a quarter of a mile away.
Cougar Mountain, but a few hours climb from the Park, offers ideal deer and cougar hunting; for here they are found in abundance. The mountains about Lake Chelan are abundantly supplied with game – such as deer, bear, cats, cougar and mountain goats; but with the exception of one or two favored grounds the hunting is most difficult, and only hardy, experienced hunters, satisfied with a specimen or two for mounting purposes need attempt it here. The mountains are bold and rugged and deeply cut, and there are but few passes or trails, except to the points mentioned, where the tenderfoot would feel safe in venturing. The Holden mine people have spent thousands of dollars on the trail that leads to the Holden mine up Railroad creek and to within four miles of the Park; and other and prospectors and mining men have completed a very safe trail from there on to Holden Park – Nature’s dream land for the tired and weary.
For the fishermen, there are no finer or more attractive waters in the world than Lake Chelan and its tributary mountain streams. The lake is teaming with lake trout that weighs from a half pound to five pounds and the mountain streams are alive with brook and mountain trout. The Wapato Indians that have allotments on the lake are weavers of some of the finest waterproof baskets in America, if not in the world.
The Painted Rocks, near the head of the lake, are worth the trip alone to see, for they represent a time of untold centuries past, when the waters of the lake were more than 50 feet higher than at present. On the perpendicular walls that rise hundred of feet from the water’s edge and fifty feet above the water’s level, are to be seen the rude paintings made by a race of people, and at a time of which the present generation of Indians have no knowledge or traditions.
The pictures portray men, tents, bears, goats and other animals, and, considering the constant attrition of waves at high water that once beat relentlessly upon them, with the action of frost and beating of rain, are remarkably well preserved. Mountain goats are frequently seen from the boat that plies regularly from the town of Chelan to the head of the lake, and occasionally some remarkably good marksman brings one of these noble animals tumbling down hundreds of feet into the lake. Bears are frequently caught fishing in the lake and shot from the boat. Lake Chelan is the second deepest body of fresh water in the world, and if the readers of this excellent magazine care to see the grandest mountain scenery and the greatest glaciers and the most wonderful waterfalls in America, where the finest of trout fishing and excellent big game hunting are also to be had, let them come to Lake Chelan
Chester G. Rideout