Washington's Lake Chelan

Jet Skis Ahoy dock staff give renters an orientation and help them launch on Washington's Lake Chelan. Lake Chelan in summer is all about fun on the water, and you can take it by degrees: Swim from a sandy beach at a public park, paddle a kayak or paddleboard, or rent a personal watercraft. (Brian J. Cantwell, Seattle Times, MCT / July 17, 2012)

It was still early, so our picnic was more brunch than lunch at one of the vacant berths in the state park marina. There's no charge for docking between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. (overnight fees start at $12), so it was just right for an early lunch. A family with toddlers played on a raft in shallow water, and a gaggle of teens in swimsuits wandered the sunny dock.

We sat in the boat's bow seats, munched crackers and cheese and took in the view across the lake of basalt pinnacles resembling mini versions of Liberty Bell Mountain, the North Cascades Highway landmark some 40 miles to the northwest.

I applied binoculars to ridgelines right and left, but the fabled bighorn sheep were in hiding.

On our return to the lake's south end, by the town of Chelan, we dawdled and watched amateur Jet Skiers zip and leap and fall flailing from their craft. Careful to heed the many no-wake zones marked by buoys, we idled in for a close-up view of young swimmers lounging on a float in front of the landmark, 111-year-old Campbell's Resort, or bouncing on a floating trampoline.

Sticky from sunscreen and with the day warming quickly into the mid-80s, we decided it was time to head for shore and freshen up with something wet and cool at the veranda pub at Campbell's.

Big lake, hot sun, good fun. It's an old formula. On Lake Chelan, it still holds water.



We rented from Jet Skis Ahoy, 1230 W. Woodin Ave., Chelan. Service was good, other than losing our telephoned reservation. On a weekday that wasn't a problem. 509-682-5125 or http://www.jetskisahoy.com. At Jet Skis Ahoy, renters must be at least 18, with a credit card or debit card and driver's license. Younger people can pilot the boat under certain conditions; call for details.

A sampling of other watercraft-rental outfits at Lake Chelan:

Shoreline Watercraft & Boat Rentals, in Don Morse Park, downtown Chelan, and other locations; 800-682-1561 or http://www.shorelineofchelan.com.

Lake Shores Rentals, 1324 W. Woodin Ave., Chelan; 877-311-5253 or http://www.chelanboats.com.

Lake Rider Sports, in Don Morse Park, rents kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and other water-sports gear; 509-885-4767 or http://www.lakeridersports.com.

RENTAL RATES: For four hours on a weekday, our 17-1/2-foot Bayliner cost $145 plus tax and gasoline charges. The rate goes up $20 on weekends. We motored about 42 miles and used eight gallons of gasoline (out of a 22-gallon tank). Total bill: $198.07.

Weekend rates for personal watercraft start at $45 for one hour at Jet Skis Ahoy.


-Inexperienced? Rental docks provide basic orientation. You'll be required to read and initial a motor-vessel rental safety checklist issued by the state.

-Check what comes with a boat. Some have canvas bimini tops for shade, a nice feature on a hot day. Jet Skis Ahoy offered wakeboards, towing tubes (for up to three people), kneeboards or water skis for no extra charge with a boat rental.

-Our 17 1/2- foot boat wasn't suited to big waves in the upper lake. Rent a larger boat to get to Stehekin, at the lake's north end. You'll need at least a full day, or go overnight to one of the 15 boat-in Forest Service and National Park Service campgrounds. (A Lake Chelan Federal Dock Site Permit is required May-October; $5/day or $40/season, available at the Chelan Ranger District office in Chelan, Twenty-FiveMile Creek State Park and other locations.)

-Get more information about moorage at Twenty-Five Mile Creek and other state parks: http://www.parks.wa.gov/boating/moorage or 360-902-8844.


Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce: 800-424-3526 or http://www.lakechelan.com.