Thursday, November 06, 2014

Don Morse Beach

This is a fairly new beach (2012?), part of a major rehabilitation of this park on the north side of the town of Chelan.  It appears to be a nice example of what happens when a team of landscape architects, waterfront engineers, and shoreline designers come together with a community willing to try something new.


The beach is constructed of pea gravel organized behind a couple of rock groins that reorient the beach to better take advantage of the westerly waves.  It looked like the beach was still making small adjustments - which is sort of typical for these kinds of projects. And must be an interesting challenge on lakes with substantial swings in water level over the year.

There is a broad sandy backshore, somewhere beneath which is the original bulkhead (or at least that's how I understand it).


I covered the south side of the lake as far as  I could in the car (25-Mile Creek), before backtracking to town and heading up the northeast side toward (and beyond) Manson, which is a few miles up the lake from Chelan.

Most of this shoreline is bumper to bumper waterfront homes, built out on fill and perched on bulkheads. If there were originally natural beaches at this lake elevation, they would be long buried beneath houses and lawns.

There are a few beaches where the orientation (generally towards the upper end of the lake) and available sediment (native or imported) were favorable, but not many.


There was a nice little pocket beach in Manson itself (Manson Bay Park), tucked behind a pier/breakwater that shelters it from the waves coming down the lake.  As with the other sites, I'd like to see this in the winter when the lake level is lower.

Lakeside Park

Lakeside Park is located on a point on the south side of the lake near town.  It's got a nice swash-aligned beach facing right up the lake on its western shore, It's not completely swash-aligned, as the beach seems to be trying to leak northward past the ramps and the dock and the rock groin at the tip of the point.

The north-facing shoreline is more complicated.  There's a broad beach with a backshore wallow (that's probably not how it's advertised) - maybe a warm water pool for kids to play in during the summer?


The foreshore immediately east of the rock groin at the point is bare of sediment (except for a narrow gravel bar) suggesting that wind waves coming down the lake tend to move sediment towards town.  This also fits with the very steep submerged edge of the fine gravel beach at the east end, where it appears to be spilling off into deeper water.  I guess it would look different during lower lake lake levels later in the year.

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?