Lake Chelan watersports

A Brief History of Lake Chelan Watersports

Though you might not know it from a look at their sleek, highly engineered exteriors and cutting-edge composite construction materials, many of the devices and watercraft we rent, sell and maintain here at Chelan Parasail & Watersports have deep roots in native cultures from all around the world. Let’s take a brief survey of some of these fascinating craft; we bet you’ll be surprised how far back into history these crafts reach!

Lake Chelan Watersports


A symbol of the Pacific Northwest (and other regions of the north), the name of this streamlined, hydrodynamic watercraft derives from the language of Greenland, which gave it the name qajaq. The earliest known examples were made of seal or other animal skins stitched together over a frame of wood or whale bones, depending on what construction materials were close at hand. Kayaks are believed to have been used for at least the last 4,000 years; the oldest surviving example dates from 1577.

Today, kayaks are typically made of highly engineered materials such as Kevlar, carbon fiber or PVC. Come rent one of ours for a truly historic perspective of the lake!

Paddle Boards

These simple little watercraft have exploded in popularity over the last 20 years or so. While they combine elements of surfboards and kayaks, they’re in a class by themselves. Paddle boards are easy to learn and use, and capable of quite decent speeds when piloted by a strong and committed paddler.

As with kayaks, it’s tempting to imagine that paddle boards are a modern-day invention, but that’s not entirely accurate. A 1781 engraving by John Webber, the ship’s artist who accompanied Captain James Cook on his Pacific voyage of 1778, clearly shows a paddle boarder or surf rider in the lower left.

More recently, paddle boarding in the United States can be traced to one Thomas Edward Blake, who built replicas of ancient Hawaiian boards back in the 1920s. Gradually streamlining and improving the design, Blake more or less single-handedly popularized this style of wave riding. A resurgence in popularity in the 1980s cemented the paddleboard’s place in the watersports pantheon. Today, they’re more popular than ever, especially on beautiful Lake Chelan. And, yes, before you have a chance to ask – we rent paddle boards too!


Another modern-looking waterborne funmaker, wakeboards—originally known as “skurfs” for their combination of water skiing and surfing elements—have been around since the 1970s. Like so many of the devices we use for fun out on the water, the first examples were hand-carved from wood down in Australia and New Zealand.

Though they caught on in a big way with the sporting/exhibition community in the 1980s through early stars like Tony Finn and Howard Jacobs, the introduction of modern, lightweight materials like carbon fiber and foam made wakeboards accessible to the general public.

If you haven’t gotten out on one yet, don’t wait! Wakeboards are a lot of fun during these last hot days of summer. And, you guessed it: we’ve got them. Come on by and try one for yourself!

We hope this has shed an interesting light on your favorite Lake Chelan watersport. What’s your favorite watersport and why?

Omak Rodeo and Stampede

Omak Rodeo and Stampede

In today’s hyper-connected and fast-paced world—are you reading this on a phone or a tablet? Have you shared it on Facebook or Instagram yet?—it’s easy to feel like there’s no time to actually enjoy life as it’s happening in real time.

That’s one of the reasons we love living on beautiful Lake Chelan—when you’re sitting by the deep and clean waters, or enjoying the stunning view from a few hundred feet in the air, there’s simply no way to be any place but the here-and-now.

That’s one of the reasons we love and look forward each and every year to the Omak Rodeo and Stampede, it’s a real-life, one-of-a-kind event that reminds us of the thrill and excitement of enjoying life in the moment. Taking place the second week in August since 1933, the rodeo is a true taste of the frontier culture that dominated and defined life here in Central Washington since the arrival of white settlers in the second half of the 19th century.

A Little History: Omak, Omak Rodeo and Stampede, and Family Fun

The brainchild of two Okanogan County stockmen, Tim Bernard and Leo Moomaw (who, let’s face it, was perhaps born to be a cattle rancher), the rodeo was conceived as a blatant ploy to drum up interest in sleepy downtown Omak (a small town about an hour’s drive from Chelan).

Bernard and Moomaw managed to secure appearances by many of the leading lights of the pre-War rodeo scene—Stub Bathlemay, Floyd Cook, Bert Evans—names that may be lost to history for many of us, but still maintain a hold on the imagination and memories of the rodeo scene.

Be aware that in those pre-television—never mind pre-Internet days—public life in large part revolved around these grand events and social gatherings. In addition to the standard rodeo events—bull riding, steer wrestling, bareback riding and team roping—this year’s event features a Native American encampment and pow wow, a carnival, parade and kids’ events.

A Taste for (Old-Fashioned) Thrills

Perhaps the most-anticipated event of this jam-packed weekend is the terrifying-sounding “Suicide Race,” which is run much as it was in its debut back in 1935: Horses and their riders ascend a steep bluff overlooking the Okanogan River; then race down a seemingly impossible sheer face, cross the river, and then dash to the finish line.

If you’re already planning on visiting the Chelan region in August, we can’t recommend the Omak Rodeo and Stampede highly enough. This year’s event is August 10-13; be sure to buy your tickets in advance.

If you have any interest in Western, rodeo and cattle culture, or Washington State history, the Omak Rodeo and Stampede is a must-see event, and a beloved and powerful reminder of the United States’ frontier heritage. And if you find yourself dry, dusty and tuckered out after all the excitement, you know where you can go for some cool, clean relaxation.

Lake Chelan tourist attractions

Lake Chelan Tourist Attractions: The Family Fun Roundup

Naturally, we love Lake Chelan for all the watersports we get to enjoy in, on—and above!—its deep, clean waters. But when you and your family want to change things up, the lake hosts tons of various sundry activities, like boat tours, bowling, and a waterpark!

4 Family-Friendly Lake Chelan Tourist Attractions

1. Chelan Bowling

Talk about timeless family fun! Chelan Lanes has been a mainstay in downtown Chelan for years. It may be a small alley with only ten lanes, but it delivers oversize amounts of fun at “Mr. J’s Lane Eleven,” the associated restaurant serving up kid-friendly favorites like burgers, nachos, and pizzas. Exhausted adults, take note: there’s also a full bar serving a wide selection of draft and bottled beers, and creative cocktails (“Espresso White Russian,” anyone?).

2. Chelan Water Park

Debuting in Chelan in 1983—the very same year we kick-started Washington State’s parasailing scene—Slidewaters waterpark is another beloved part of the Chelan community of family-style funmakers. The park features breathtaking views of the lake below and designed to provide easy access, no-intimidation slip-sliding fun for guests of every age and ability. And while the park has changed hands a couple of times since its inception, it’s always been a family-owned business, and it shows in the park’s welcoming air and all-ages style of fun.

3. Chelan Boat Tour

Offering a stunning, close-up tour of some of Chelan Lake’s most remote and beautiful nooks and crannies, the Lady of the Lake takes visitors of all ages on voyages around Chelan’s deep blue waters. Singled out by none other than National Geographic and Sunset magazines as a “must-see trip,” the cruises offer the only access (besides floatplanes) to the remote and unspoiled wilderness in the northern reaches of the lake. If you’re concerned with sightseer stamina, the tour is available in shorter “express” lengths which may be more suitable for the youngest of visitors.

4. Stehekin

One of our favorite activities in Chelan isn’t even in Chelan: it’s the tiny village of Stehekin, accessible only by boat (see the Lady of the Lake, above), by plane or by a long trek on foot or horseback. Though it’s short on the amenities offered by Chelan, it’s an unbelievably pristine and one-of-a-kind experience. Stehekin is an isolated community based largely on fishing and hunting, existing much as it did 100 years ago. Think deer roaming through the village, glacier-fed waters, and an utter natural beauty. Do consider a visit to Stehekin Valley Ranch, where there’s a restaurant as well as gentle horseback tours of the area. Note: The Lady of the Lake makes a three-hour stopover in Stehekin; think about packing a picnic to enjoy while you’re there.

We love the relaxed pace and kid-friendly atmosphere of our hometown, Chelan, and we’re pretty sure you’ll find plenty of Lake Chelan Tourist Attractions for the whole family to enjoy here, too. Pay us a visit soon, and see all that our beautiful lake has to offer.

Lake Chelan adventures

Lake Chelan Adventures in the Sky

Naturally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that Lake Chelan is home to Washington State’s first parasail operation (yes, we’re name-dropping ourselves). But our beautiful lake hosts a bounty of other airborne options for adventure, and believe us when we tell you that the lake’s unspoiled beauty is even more breathtaking when seen from the air.

Sadly, one of our favorite options—and a true symbol of Lake Chelan—is closed for the 2017 season due to construction and changes at the Chelan Marina. As reported in the Lake Chelan Mirror, Chelan Seaplane, operating a jaunty orange DeHavilland Beaver since 1945, is seeking a new permanent home. We wish them luck and hope they return to the lake soon.

That said, there are other ways—besides parasailing Lake Chelan—to get up in the air. Here are a few of our favorites!

Lake Chelan Adventures in the Sky

Lake Chelan Parasailing

While we weren’t the very first to take advantage of Lake Chelan’s natural beauty by air–that distinction goes to Chelan Seaplane–we’re proud to have brought a whole new way of doing it when we inaugurated the state’s very first parasailing operation back in 1983. Since then, we’ve given thousands of riders the thrill of a lifetime as they sail hundreds of feet above the lake. Come be next!

Lake Chelan Skydiving

Let’s cut directly to the chase: When it comes to airborne thrills, nothing competes with the raw rush of skydiving! Skydive Chelan offers a range of options from tandem jumps—in which you’re hitched to a seasoned instructor—for beginners, to full-altitude or quick “hop-n-pops” for licensed pros. If you’re feeling shaky about jumping, you can even schedule your jump to land at a winery for a rapid and controlled come down.

Lake Chelan Helicopter Tours

If you’d prefer to stay inside the vehicle, Lake Chelan Helicopters offer a more sedate airborne experience. Their attractive little Robinson whirlybird is available for tours, winery and dinner hops—just to be clear, you wine and dine on the ground, not in the air!—and passenger flights to nearby Stehekin and Holden Village farther up the lake.

Lake Chelan Zip Lines

For those of you who prefer your airborne fun a wee bit closer to the ground, Tunnel Zip Lines offers a truly unique and thrilling ride. Sailing above a decommissioned apple orchard at breathtaking speed (but, needless to say, complete safety), riders are slingshotted from station to station on a virtual tour of the canyon. We can’t recommend a visit strongly enough; it’s a one-of-a-kind melding of the natural and human-made worlds. Kind of reminds us of another place we know, come to think of it…

We hope we’ve made our point when it comes to summer fun in Chelan, the sky really is the limit. Come see beautiful Lake Chelan by land, by water–or by air! And maybe you can invent a whole new way of enjoying it!

Lake Chelan wineries

The Best Lake Chelan Wineries Around Town

Lake Chelan is a fascinating area in so many regards: It’s geographically unique, featuring gentle volcanic slopes framing the third-deepest lake in the United States; it figures prominently in Washington State history; and, it’s one of the country’s newest and most exciting wine-making regions.

Since receiving a coveted AVA (American Viticultural Area) designation in 2009—some 118 years after the first wine was made there!—the region has only grown in popularity and renown. As a sub-appellation of the fertile Columbia Valley AVA, it’s known for a similarly wide variety of grapes: Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot Gris, Zinfandel, and many others.

When we mention “lake effect” here at Chelan Parasail, we’re usually talking about the sudden, uncontrollable bursts of glee experienced by first-time parasailers, but lake effect—the unique heat-trapping phenomenon that extends the crucial end of the growing season—influences the Lake Chelan wineries as well.

If you’re visiting our beautiful lake to enjoy the watersports or breathtaking scenery, take a moment to visit a few of our favorite Lake Chelan wineries and vineyards; they’re an unforgettable—and delicious—part of what makes Lake Chelan so unique.

The Best Lake Chelan Wineries

Cairdeas Winery

Another family-run venture, Cairdeas Winery is a welcoming vineyard—the Gaelic name, pronounced “cardis,” means “friendship,” or “kindred”— takes inspiration from the ancient wines of the Rhône Valley.

Chelan Estate Winery

Featuring stunning views of Lake Chelan below and the mountains above, Chelan Estate Winery is a longtime labor of love for owners Bob and Mary Broderick, who started a small experimental vineyard here in the early 1990s.

Mellisoni Vineyards

Taking a personalized, boutique approach to winemaking has paid off for this family-owned winery. Mellisoni Vineyard’s Cabernets, Syrahs, Pinot Grigios and blends have won multiple awards in the last few years.

One Wines

An idiosyncratic and lovable project born of a most unlikely personal pairing, One Wines runs a sleek tasting room and picnic area right in downtown Chelan. Their offerings—a single red, a single white, and a single rosé—have won multiple awards.

Tunnel Hill Winery

Visiting the quaint stone guest house and rambling grounds here is a uniquely relaxing and pleasurable experience. In addition to the small-batch bottlings, Tunnel Hill Winery winery functions as an inn and event space for weddings and more.

Ventimiglia Cellars

Following a happy relaunch after the Chelan fires of 2015, Ventimiglia Cellars is a small-batch winery and is the brainchild of noted local vintner Ron Ventimiglia, who’s worked with or otherwise advised many of the region’s leading winemakers.

Vin du Lac Winery

French for “wine of the lake,” Vin du Lac Winery is a lovely winery and outdoor event space boasts breathtaking views, handcrafted wines, and a farm-to-table style bistro.

All in all, there are over two dozen wineries clustered around the lake, enough to warrant several days of visits on their own! Whether this is your first visit to the region—or you’ve already fallen for Lake Chelan and are looking to deepen the relationship—we’re glad to see you, and we hope you have an exceptional time visiting the beautiful Lake Chelan wine country.

Lake Chelan boat rentals

Why Do We Stock and Maintain So Many Styles of Boats?

“You sure have a lot of different types of boats!”

We hear that often, and it’s true. We do stock an awful lot of different watercraft. To some, it might seem like overkill; to us, it’s our way of maximizing your enjoyment of beautiful Lake Chelan (and beyond). It’s our way of making sure we become your premiere source for your next Lake Chelan boat rental.

While to the untrained eye all boats look more or less the same, we know there are vast differences between the many different styles, makes and models of vessels here at Chelan Parasail & Watersports. Here are a few things we look for when we’re researching new watercraft for the public to enjoy.

Question #1: Do You Feel the Need for Speed?

Arguably, this is the most important distinction in watersports: Are you looking to open up and pound some waves? Or are you taking friends and family for a leisurely tour to relax amidst Chelan Lake’s stunning natural beauty?

Obviously, engine displacement—simply put, an engine’s volume—is a major factor; more displacement equals greater torque, which gives you greater starting power out of the gate. The engine’s volume is of particular importance when pulling water skis or other towed craft.

But the shape of the boat’s hull—the outer shell that comes into contact with the water—is equally important. Boat builders take many factors into account when they’re designing hulls, from the desired cruising speed to the need for stability, to load-carrying capacity, and more.

A faster hull will result in a trade-off; besides having a smaller profile—and less passenger-carrying capability—it will provide a less stable ride for large parties.

Question #2: Float or Take a Cruise?

One major development in the boating world is the explosive popularity of pontoon boats. Though they’re externally similar to traditional hulled boats, the difference is significant: whereas boats cruise through the water on a single, full-size hull, pontoon boats float on top of two or more narrow floats, or pontoons.

There’s a tradeoff here. Pontoon boats are stable, fast, and efficient when compared to traditional boats. But because they lack a full-size hull, they have much less storage and cargo-carrying capacity as opposed to traditional boats.

One recent development is the hybrid pontoon boat, which attempts to bridge the gap between these two styles. They’re rapidly gaining in popularity, and we’re keenly interested in seeing where this design will go in the next few years.

Our Goal: A Broad and Deep Selection

When we’re considering new vessels to add to our stock, we aim for a fleet with a wide mix of speeds and capabilities, from those with top all-out speed and responsive handling to those that will provide a gentle, stable ride for large groups. Maintaining a large and varied fleet is more work, but we find that our customers get the best experience when they have the widest selection to choose from for their Lake Chelan boat rental needs. Of course, we haven’t even touched on the wide world of jet skis, but that’s a topic that will have to wait for another day!

New Boats In For Summer 2014!

New Razor Boat RentalsOur new boats are here!  Come in and check out our Caravelle Razors.  These 14 passenger 25 foot sport boats come equipped with a great stereo system and are great for cruising or lounging on Lake Chelan.  Come in before the summers over and enjoy the lake on one of these fantastic boats.  To see more photos of our new boats check our facebook or go to our 2014 razor boat rentals section.  To see all of our Lake Chelan boat rentals be sure to check our Boats section.