chelan region

The History of the Chelan Region

Sure, everyone comes to visit Lake Chelan for the breathtaking natural beauty of the lake, for the watersports—oh, and did we already we mention the world-class parasailing?

But beyond all that, the story of the Chelan region reads like a mini-history of America, from the earliest Native American inhabitants to the settlers who arrived in the 19th century, all the way through the winemakers and artisans who help make modern-day Chelan so special.

You can learn all this history and more through the fascinating exhibits and permanent collections at the Chelan Museum, a historic structure operated by the Lake Chelan Historical Society.

Lake Chelan’s Earliest Inhabitants

It’s believed that the region’s first human inhabitants arrived around 10,000 years ago. (North America has had human inhabitants for at least 16,000 years; it’s possible they migrated from Asia across the Bering Land Bridge.)

Interestingly, scientists believe Lake Chelan itself was formed by glacial activity around 10,000 years ago as well. Is it possible that even then, the natural beauty and bounty of the region was drawing humans to its shores?

Those first native inhabitants were likely offshoots of the Wenatchi Tribe; it’s possible they gained the “Chelan” name as a result of Alexander Ross, an explorer employed by the Pacific Fur Company. He reported that the native inhabitants referred to the nearby river as the “Tsill-ane,” or “deep water,” and that it was connected with the nearby lake.

Caucasian Settlers Change the Human Landscape

The West Coast experienced a flood of settlers from the East. Many of the first waves came in search of valuable animal pelts; then in the middle of the 19th century, the California Gold Rush inspired many thousands more. In some regions of the West, indigenous tribes—many of them weakened by exposure to previously unknown diseases like smallpox—were simply driven away by the new settlers.

In the Chelan region, The Yakima Treaty of 1855 had consolidated several unaffiliated tribes together, removing their claim to millions of acres of land in exchange for a small reservation, cash, and other incentives. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this agreement turned sour quickly, and a series of wars, massacres, and skirmishes marked the region until the remaining native tribes were finally relocated to the Colville Reservation and a few small allotments on Lake Chelan itself.

Shaping Modern-Day Chelan

The end of the 19th century brought many changes to the region: A new influx of settlers, many brought by the arrival of reliable railroad service. Agriculture—fed by the area’s plentiful irrigation water—flourished, and Don Morse, one of Chelan’s most beloved figures of the 20th century and the namesake of our beloved park was for many years an apple farmer. These days, a flourishing wine industry carries on the tradition of local and artisan foods and traditions, a nod to the richness and bounty of this gem hidden right in the middle of Washington State.

If you’re interested in learning more about Chelan’s history, check out the Chelan Museum where you can interact with fascinating relics of the past! When you’re done playing on the lake, do yourself a favor and pay the Historical Society a visit; it’s one history lesson you won’t regret!

Lake Chelan activities

Lake Chelan Activities Beyond Watersports

If you’re one of our many friends and repeat visitors in Chelan, you know how big we are on anything and everything having to do with water: parasailing, jet skiing and boating but also water sports, longer boating tours around the lake and boat design.

But from time to time, even we have to admit that dry land looks pretty good, too. Fortunately, Chelan and the surrounding area hosts a ton of relaxing, beautiful and just plain fun outdoor activities for guests of every age.

Here are a few of our favorite places and things to do around town. If you’re with youngsters, don’t forget to check out our family fun roundup from a few weeks back!

Lake Chelan Activities Beyond Watersports

Electric Bike Tours

The zippy little two-wheelers at Chelan Electric Bikes are a blast! You can cruise at up to 20 miles per hour using either pedal power, the small electric motor, or a combination of both. The company also offers highly rated tours of local wineries, several of which we pointed out in our “local wineries” blog from a few weeks ago.

Farmer’s Market

One of the most beloved (and most delicious) weekly events of the summer is the Chelan Farmer’s Market, open every Thursday evening from 4 – 7 pm. You’ll see gorgeous produce and locally produced cheese from over 20 vendors, hear live music and catch food and cooking demos to boot. Unlike some other farmers markets, Chelan’s has a strict policy that all vendors and produce must be local. Come by and get a taste of what makes life in Chelan so magnificent!

Don Morse Memorial Park

A 40-acre extravaganza right on the lakeshore, Don Morse Park is named for one of the country’s most beloved fixtures, an orchardist and civic leader with a fascinating life story. The park he inspired offers prime swimming, boating, and sunbathing access, plus a host of amenities. You’ll find a newly resurfaced beach volleyball court, tennis, and basketball courts, a skatepark, and even an 18-hole green-grass putting course.

Beebe Bridge

A “hidden gem” of a park located some four miles east of Chelan, Beebe Bridge Park offers swimming, picnicking, tennis and more on a beautiful perch overlooking the Columbia River. Of course, the centerpiece is a stunning view of the bridge itself, an impressive, nearly 100-year-old two-lane steel span. If you’re motoring through town, Beebe Bridge Park offers RV hookups on a first-come-first-served basis.

Chelan Riverwalk Park

No description of Chelan would be complete without a mention of this gorgeous walking park winding around the eastern end of Lake Chelan. Featuring a picnic area, boat launch, and a walking trail, you can enjoy stunning views of the lake through all the seasons, but especially during the golden light of the last half of summer.

We hope you find these resources both tempting and useful, and most of all – we hope to see you here in Chelan sometime soon!

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.

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.