Paddling Lake Wenatchee
by Andy Dappen
For most of the summer, Lake Wenatchee would not be a paddler’s first pick for a relaxing outing. The shoreline and the waters of the lake itself bustle with city refugees who come to swim, fish, water ski, windsurf, wake board, and jet ski. Before and after the summer rush, however, all types of paddlers (canoeists, flat water kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders) will find this lake ringed by mountains an enjoyable paddling destination. Especially if you can break free on a spring or autumn weekday, come give the lake a paddle. Or come paddle and camp — between the Forest Service campgrounds (at Nason Creek and Glacier View) and the State Park campgrounds (at both the south and north entrances), you’ll have all manner of choices on off-season weekdays. This post offers two paddling circuits to consider:
Paddling Option 1. Enter Lake Wenatchee State Park from the east end of lake. Drive into the South Entrance of Lake Wenatchee State Park, park in one of the day-use parking lots near the lake (Discover Pass required) and carry your boat/board boat down to swimming beach to launch. Paddle up lake along one shoreline as far as energy allows, cross over the lake to opposite shoreline, and return. If you do a complete the green circuit of the lake as shown on our map, the paddling distance is about 11.5 miles.
The advantage of starting at the east end of the lake is this: Should late morning or afternoon winds kick up (a common occurrence), they usually blow out of the west. These westerly winds will make it far easier to return to your starting point because the wind and waves will be at your back, pushing you toward the State Park.
The disadvantage of starting from Lake Wenatchee State Park? In summer and on nice weather weekends it can be quite crowded and noisy with people on the shoreline and motor traffic on the lake.
Paddling Option 2. Drive to the Glacier View Campground at the very end of Cedar Brae Road, park in the day-use area (NW Forest Pass required) and enter the lake here. Paddle up lake and explore the lower portions of both the Little Wenatchee and White rivers. Then explore the western and northwestern shorelines before crossing the lake to return to your starting point. If you complete the blue circuit shown on our map, the paddling distance is about 8.25 miles.
The advantage of starting from Glacier View: This end of the lake is quieter than the east end, even on busy weekends. Furthermore, motor boats are not allowed to enter of the rivers so paddlers can easily escape any noise and bustle associated with the lake. Finally if you explore the two rivers early in the day, you’ll be upwind of your starting point should the afternoon westerly winds kick up.
Recommended Seasons. Spring and autumn (especially weekdays).
Permits. Discover Pass required to launch from the State Park (Option 1) and Northwest Forest Pass required to launch from the Glacier View Campground (Option 2). Day-use passes can be purchased at each destination.
Access. Drive Highway 2 to Coles Corner and turn onto Highway 207 following signs toward Lake Wenatchee State Park. Drive for about 4 miles, and turn into the south entrance of Lake Wenatchee State Park. Cross the Nason Creek Bridge and in about 100 yards either drive straight ahead to enter the State Park (Option 1) or turn left onto Cedar Brae Road (Option 2). To reach the Glacier View Campground, follow Cedar Brae Road for five miles. The campground is at road’s end (the last mile of road is unpaved).
Hazards. Afternoon winds out of the west are common and often quite strong (it’s why the lake is a popular windsurfing destination. Especially if you’re paddling a canoe into the wind, it’s not hard to find yourself swamped).
Bugs. Another reason to visit the lake during the off seasons? No bugs. Lake Wenatchee is notorious for its mosquitoes from late spring through mid-summer. Mosquitoes are usually at their worst in June and July, but each year is different so visitors are wise to come armed with repellent from mid-May until mid-August. Even when the bugs are bad at the boat launches, you’ll quickly leave them behind once you start paddling.
Reporter and Updates. This post was prepared by Andy Dappen on 9/25/2020.
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