The Lake Chelan Valley is a great place to visit and an even better place to call home. The Valley offers four seasons of recreation, charming shopping districts, and bountiful agriculture including an emerging wine industry. Centrally located, full-time and part-time residents find it an ideal location for telecommuting with quality infrastructure and easy access to destinations across the state. The Lake Chelan Valley encompasses the communities of Chelan, Manson and Stehekin.
With ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, a thriving art scene, and a superior community hospital, residents of the Lake Chelan Valley pride themselves on having a high quality of life. The Lake Chelan Valley maintains the strong sense of community rich in small towns. Residents greet each other by name and community service is alive and well, apparent in strong participation among the community’s civic groups. The Valley’s natural beauty, coupled with abundant amenities, make it an excellent place to live.
Lake Chelan formed gradually over millions of years with the rise of the Cascade Mountains. Today about 100 glaciers are liberally sprinkled on the peaks draining into Lake Chelan. These glaciers store water through the summer, which helps irrigate the productive fruit orchards in the lowlands.
Native Americans probably inhabited the lower Lake Chelan Valley for thousands of years prior to its “discovery” by pioneer trappers, explorers, and prospectors in the 1800s. The Native Americans were called the “Tsillane,” later spelled Chelan, meaning ‘deep water.’
In the 1880s, the lure of precious metals brought prospectors to the upper regions of Lake Chelan. Stehekin became a busy lake port. The Howe Sound Mining Company purchased Holden Mine in 1930. Up to 600 people lived at Holden during peak operation of the mine. Though the Holden Mine was originally thought to contain enough ore to operate for fifty years, plummeting copper prices in the 1950s forced the mine to shut down after only twenty years of operation. During this time, $66.5 million worth of copper, gold, silver, and zinc was extracted.
The levels of the lake are controlled locally by the Chelan County PUD. They are under a 50 year licensing agreement with the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission to manage lake levels on Lake Chelan. There are 11 signing agencies to the license that had to reach agreement on lake levels and management. To learn more about those levels and management, click here.
The mines of Stehekin did not make many people rich, but other visitors to the area saw that its lasting value lay not in the gold and silver hidden in the hills, but in its scenic grandeur. Congress passed a bill in 1968 creating the North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, and the Pasayten Wilder-ness.
Though the miners and trappers have long since left the area, their independence and self-reliant spirit live on in many of the hardy residents of the Valley. Only in 1963 did the Stehekin community acquire its own hydroelectric power plant. During the winter the ferryboat travels from Chelan to Stehekin with the mail and fresh food only three times a week.