It’s called “The Butte”. No fancy names. Not a lot of tourist-hype. Looking somewhat like a resting elephant, its highest point rises 3,835 feet (1,168 meters) to the south of the town of Chelan and Lake
The Scout, born and raised in this Eastern Washington town, has ‘been there, done that’ when it comes to The Butte. Maybe that is why, despite several visits a year there over the course of three decades, we’d never taken the time to explore it until a couple years ago.
The Chelan Butte Unit, as it is called in Washington State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife covers some 9,097 acres, stretching from Lake Chelan to the Columbia River. It’s home to wildlife (including big horn sheep) to wildflowers (some more than 5-feet tall as I illustrate above), with a few snakes and other critters thrown as well.
The 4.5 mile distance from town to the summit is paved for the first 1.2 miles. It becomes a narrow, dirt road which is rutted and rocky – and muddy in inclement weather, and many leave their vehicles at lower elevations. Even in good weather an SUV would be better than a conventional car, although our Camry made the drive, albeit very slowly.
Currently it’s a favorite among hikers who want to explore the trails that lead to old abandoned mines, bikers and in winter, snowshoe enthusiasts. There’s also a hang gliding group or two that use its upper peak for projecting themselves out over the Columbia River Gorge.
We had the place to ourselves the day we drove to the end of the road; the communication towers on the uppermost ridge. Parking there is off-road; no formal lots. Then it was time to enjoy the views:
To the south – the Columbia River Gorge, in both the photo above and below.
And to the north over the 55-mile long, glacier fed lake to the North Cascades Mountain range in the distance.
We told ourselves we won’t wait another decade or so to make a return visit to “The Butte”.
For You History Buffs:
The 1938 fire lookout tower that was once atop The Butte was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 and in 1996 moved to the Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center, just down the road in Entiat.
And did you know there was a Gold Rush on Chelan Butte in 1907? Take a look at this link – it’s mighty interesting!
If You Go:
Follow Highway 97A and at Millard Street in Chelan (between milepost 232 and 233) turn south.
Note: Parking at The Butte now requires a Washington State Discover Pass ($10 a day/or $30 annually).
For more information visit: www.discoverpass.wa.gov
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