Thursday, November 06, 2014

Lake Chelan State Park

This is the first of several posts from a Sunday spent exploring the lower end of Lake Chelan two weeks ago.  It was nice to have a pleasant day to explore without having to compete with summertime traffic and the background buzz of jet skis.

Lake Chelan reminded me that I have a lot to learn about constructed beaches on lakes with managed water levels. Which I've come to realize are common aspects of developed, recreational lakes, not exceptions.

The lake level has been managed since the late 1800s (the modern dam was built in 1927, but apparently the first couple each blew out immediately) and its modern level is somewhat higher than its original level - on average - since both historic and modern varied/vary a lot with runoff. Currently, the Chelan PUD, which manages the dam, keeps the water level within a 20' range - and within a much narrower range in the summer when waterfront property owners and boaters demand both depth and predictability.  I believe the water level during these shots is a few feet lower than the normal summer level (just short of 1100' above sea level), as best as I can tell.

Not surprisingly, there was once a glacier in this trough. The result is a very deep lake (almost 1500', which means it extends below sea level) - and I suppose it competes with Hood Canal as the state's best fjord.  The longest lake in Washington drains via the shortest river in the state, which plunges four hundred feet over four miles to meet the Columbia (Lake Entiat, behind Rocky Reach Dam). Or it would plunge, were not the entire flow bypassed down to the powerhouse via pipes - which makes the Chelan River not only the shortest river in Washington, but also the driest?


Lake Chelan State Park is on the southwest shore.  The swimming beach is convex waterward and is exposed to waves from multiple directions, but perhaps it's sheltered position from down-lake winds provides some stability. I suspect - but don't know for sure - that this beach may be periodically replenished, or at least scraped back together now and then.

The sign indicated that the beach was built in 1975. I suspect this refers to the basic architecture of the shoreline, which is backed by grassy terraces separated by retaining walls, but maybe it also refers to the beach itself?

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