May 24, 2012

Another Seaplane Adventure

After visiting North Cascades National Park earlier in the week, we had decided that a visit to Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, which abuts the park, should be on our list.  Lake Chelan extends approximately fifty miles into the heart of the Cascade Mountain Range and is the third deepest lake in the nation.   The only way to get to the national recreation area is by boat or seaplane, or on foot or horseback.  No roads reach the remote community of Stehekin, located on the northern shore of Lake Chelan.  The boat ride would have taken all day, so we decided to take a seaplane.  A flight on Chelan Seaplanes is a fabulous way to get to Stehekin.  It’s much quicker, provides stunning views and is simply more fun.

It was slightly overcast as we took off from the town of Chelan.  I had volunteered to sit in the co-pilot’s seat and had a marvelous view for the entire journey.  Sweeping views of the lake unfolded in front of us.  We admired the deep blue color of the glacier-carved lake and saw just how steep the mountains are that rise from the lakeshore. 

Into the Wild Blue Yonder
The Snow-Capped Cascade Range Rises in the Distance
A Bird's Eye View
The Northern End of Lake Chelan
Stepping Off the Seaplane
 We arrived at Stehekin Landing and ran into several National Park rangers who were readying the visitor center for the upcoming season opening.  They were so informative and helpful in explaining where we could go, since most of the facilities were not yet open.  We were able to tour the 1921 schoolhouse, Rainbow Falls and the Buckner Orchard before returning for our flight back to Chelan.  Although we only got a taste of what the area has to offer, we thoroughly enjoyed our brief visit.  I was feeling generous and let Tim have the co-pilot’s seat on the return flight.

1921 Schoolhouse
Rainbow Falls
Buckner Orchard
Ready for the Return Flight
Reflections in the Gorgeous Blue Waters
No Roads Extend to Stehekin
After landing in Chelan, we traveled south through the Columbia River Valley and saw even more dams.  We stopped in Wenatchee, the self-proclaimed Apple Capital of the World.  I can’t believe how many orchards we’ve seen in the last few days.  Apparently, the semi-arid flatlands and canyons combine with hot and rich water to make the perfect fruit growing conditions.  I kept thinking how beautiful this area must be in the spring when all of the trees are blooming.

Orchards Against a Colorful Hillside
Colorful Floral Displays Abound
We crossed the Columbia River once again and made our way through the Columbia Basin.  The Columbia Basin Irrigation Project provides the water for over seventy-five types of farm crops, and Grant County provides much of the food for the country.  The town of Quincy regularly promotes its agricultural industry by sponsoring tours of farms, orchards and packing plants.  My favorite, however, was the program to place small signs beside the highway identifying the crops or trees.  How many times have I wondered what’s growing in the fields?  I think this is a brilliant idea, and I’d love to see other agricultural regions copy this idea.

Timothy Hay Is Planted in this Field
(I Didn't Know Tim Had His Own Hay!)
As the highway returned to the Columbia River, we were treated to sweeping views of the majestic and wild Columbia River Gorge.  Farther south we entered the Hanford Reach National Monument, the only free-flowing, non-tidal stretch of the Columbia River unaffected by the river’s vast dam system.  Hanford Reach was designated in 2000 and is another wild section of the state.  Sweeping vistas and towering bluffs characterize the area.

Sweeping Vista of the Columbia River Gorge
Adjacent to the Monument is the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a stark reminder of our history.  Plutonium reactors, now mothballed, were once instrumental in the government’s Manhattan Project.  In fact, the plutonium produced here was used in the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki during World War II.  Hanford is now one of the country’s most notorious superfund sites, and it will take years to clean up the land and water.


  1. What a great adventure. I bet it was fun.

    1. It was fun. I do enjoy a seaplane ride. You just can't beat the views. Sarah