Chelan Falls is the name of a small community located near the confluence of the Chelan and Columbia Rivers, just a few miles south of our Lake Chelan Resort. The area’s name comes from a series of falls on the Chelan River in the Chelan Gorge section of Daybreak Canyon, popular for whitewater kayaking.
The Chelan River is Washington State’s shortest river, at only 4.1 miles in length (just under 7km). Despite this, the river is also home to some of the region’s most exciting and challenging whitewater.
The river starts off below the Lake Chelan Dam, losing some 400 feet (122m) in elevation as it drops to the Lake Chelan Powerhouse on the Columbia. In between these two points, the river tumbles through the rocky confines of Daybreak Canyon.
Sightseers and whitewater boating enthusiasts exploring the Chelan area will enjoy the views along the river on the drive to Chelan Falls. Especially the dramatic Chelan Gorge section.
Getting There: Two Roads
There are two distinct routes to Chelan Falls from Kelly’s Resort. Both will get you there in about the same amount of time – 30 minutes – but one is much more scenic.
The clearest and most traveled route is through town on Woodin Avenue, then south via Hwy 150.
A more scenic and rewarding older route, however, is along the Gorge Road. Gorge Road is an unpaved but well maintained country road that hews more closely to the flow of the Chelan River than Hwy 150.
To locate Gorge Road:
Take a right at Farnham Street, just after Chelan High School on Webster Avenue.
Stay on Farnham (which changes to S Sanders Street) until you can take a left on E Iowa Street.
Follow this until it becomes Gorge Road.
Gorge Road, aka Chelan River Road, aka The Old Chelan Falls Road, loosely follows the course of the Chelan River as it flows down to the Columbia. The drive is especially colorful and breathtaking in spring, when all the area’s many wildflowers are in bloom.
As the name implies, the Gorge Road skirts quite close by Chelan Gorge and Daybreak Canyon. In fact, Gorge Road provides the only drive-to views of the canyon. A variety of pull-outs along the Gorge Road provide opportunities for stopping and taking in the views.
Do be cautious when stopping above Daybreak Canyon, however. The abrupt edge of the gorge’s sheer cliffs drop to rocky outcroppings far below. A careless slip could be fatal.
Chelan Falls Park
To reach the park, take Gorge Road past Daybreak Canyon as it drops down towards the Columbia River and Chelan Falls. Aim for the river and you’ll soon see the park.
Chelan Falls is a primarily residential and orchard community, with a population of around 400 and few businesses to speak of. Powerhouse Park aka Chelan Falls Park is the area’s big draw.
The 33 acre park is adjacent to the Lake Chelan Powerhouse. Park amenities include a boat launch, picnic shelters, restrooms, a popular swimming area, and more.
One secret of Chelan Falls Park is that the water tends to be warmer here. If you want to go swimming but the lake is just too darned cold, check out the swimming area at Chelan Falls Park.
Whitewater Boating the Chelan River
The Chelan River is known for having some of the most challenging whitewater boating around. Kayakers come from all across the country to test themselves against the twists and drops of Daybreak Canyon.
The first 3 miles of the river are categorized as Class II (novice level) but it quickly morphs to dangerous Class V+ (expert level) when it reaches the Chelan Gorge section.
The Chelan River’s flow is regulated by the Chelan Dam, with whitewater releases and boating typically restricted to September. Prospective kayakers must sign up with Chelan PUD to boat the Chelan.
Learn more at www.chelanpud.org.