IMPORTANT NOTICE: You must sign up with Chelan PUD to take part in scheduled opportunities to paddle this reach.
FUN FACT: Class IV/V in a shorty, in Washington!
SEASON: Scheduled releases will likely occur during the summer but have not yet been scheduled
PUT-IN: Just below the dam on river-left, an undeveloped road and short trail approach the river. The trail ends on a wide gravel bar that provides a suitable staging area. There are parking and restroom facilities at a nearby City park.
TAKEOUT: There is a developed boat launch at Chelan Falls Park at the confluence of the Chelan and the Columbia. The park also has extensive parking, restrooms, a large picnic shelter, and an extensive lawn for organizing/drying gear.
Adapted from: Boating Feasibility Assessment prepared for the Chelan Public Utility District by Bo Shelby and Doug Whittaker of Confluence Research Consulting.
The Chelan River begins below the dam operated by the Lake Chelan Hydroelectric project and continues for approximately 4 miles until it joins the tailrace of the powerhouse near the Columbia River. The run can be divided into four distinct sections:
A more detailed descriptions of the whitewater features follows:
Sections 1 and 2
The first three miles feature a swift braided river with occasional islands and riffle areas. At flows up to 500 cfs, the whitewater difficulty in these sections is Class II with a few Class III rapids. Towards the end of this section, at the transition between the braided section and the gorge, the river becomes class IV.
Section 3 - Entrance Exam (Class V)
This rapid has a series of four drops (First Drop, Second Drop, Pile Up, and Final Plunge) in short succession at the start of the Gorge. The rapid is identified by a large rock about 100 feet upstream of a sharp left bend at the mouth of Daybreak Canyon. There is a large pool at the top of the reach where you can scout and portage the entire rapid, as well as a smaller eddy downstream of the first drop where you can also exit the river. Once you commit to the second drop in the series, you have to run the rest of the sequence.
There are scouting and portage options along Entrance Exam from river-right. Those who portage can seal launch into the pool below Final Plunge. There are options for establishing safety along the rapid, particularly below Pile-up and Final Plunge, the two holes where you are more likely to become stuck or have to swim. At higher flows, however, the rock immediately adjacent to the hole in Final Plunge becomes wet and is less suitable (but still usable) for safety efforts.
Section 3 - Central Gorge
A few hundred feet downstream of Entrance Exam are a series of five major rapids in the Central Gorge. Unlike Entrance Exam, each of these are separated by pools with less turbulent water, and each can be scouted or portaged independently.
Section 3 - Lower Gorge (Class IV/V)
Downstream of Boulder Sieve, the river becomes less constricted and has a slightly lower gradient. There are several significant drops and boulders in this reach, but the rapids generally have less powerful hydraulics than those upstream. The rapids above the Old Highway Bridge have been collectively labeled "Extra Credit," while the series of larger boulders and constricted routes downstream of the bridge have been collectively labeled "Fat Lady," --"it isn't over until the fat lady sings."
At lower flows (273 cfs), there are at least two routes in Fat Lady that are very constricted resulting in rock hits as you pass through. The central route, with most of the water, has a sieve with potential pinning hazards. At intermediate flow (391 cfs), there are more route options in both Extra Credit and Fat Lady, but there are still some big rocks to hit. The additional water provides more depth and width in passages, without significantly increasing power in the river. At higher flows (475 cfs), however, while similar routes are available, power in the river increases noticeably and makes some routes more difficult.
In Extra Credit, there is at least one good play hole for rodeo maneuvers and this improves at higher flows. There are numerous opportunities to get out and scout either Extra Credit or Fat Lady from the various boulders, and numerous portage and rescue options are also available if needed.
As the river leaves the Gorge, the river offers essentially Class I boating through a braided channel into the outflow channel of the powerhouse as it joins the Columbia. Powerboats and personal watercraft from the Columbia occasionally use the lower end of this reach, as do swimmers from Chelan Falls Park.
for additional information:
From Highway 97 mile 235.1 turn onto Highway 150. Go 0.4 miles (Highway 150 mile 11.6) and make the turn for Chelan Falls. Head 0.8 mile to Powerhouse Road. The parking area for the day use area that serves is the take-out is 0.1 mile up this road within sight of the powerhouse. To reach the put-in from here, continue on into Chelan Falls and 0.1 mile from Powerhouse Road you will turn right onto Chestnut St. Bear left as this becomes Fourth and in 0.2 mile you will take a right on Sixth. In 0.2 miles the pavement ends. From this point it's 3.2 miles along the gorge on river right to the put-in which is a road down to the dam.
Recreational flow study for the Chelan River in Washington State.
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Permits are not required for this reach.
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Dewatered Chelan Gorge
Into Punch Bowl
John on the Throne
Throne, Chelan Gorge
Super Boof, Chelan Gorge
Fat Lady Swim, Chelan Gorge
Fat Lady, Chelan Gorge
Extra Cred, Chelan Gorge
Double Slide, Chelan Gorge
Final Plunge, Chelan Gorge
Pile Up, Chelan Gorge
First Drop, Chelan Gorge
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