The Butte from a distance

The Butte from a distance

The Butte hike, just outside of Lake Chelan (shee-lan) Washington, will give you a fantastic view of the powerful Columbia River.  The short hike is well worth it.

The Lake Chelan Washington Butte, is a well traveled “road” that most folks choose to walk rather than drive because of the potential stuck-in-the-mud areas along the way.

The Butte is only a little over 2200 feet above sea level.  Chelan Butte Road will take you to the top of the summit.  Just be aware that you may be concluding your hike by walking because of the infamous muddy, rutted roadway.

Be sure and wear some well fitted hiking/walking shoes.

Fire Watch

Original Fire Lookout Station

Original Fire Lookout Station

The Butte gained popularity when it was mounted with a fire lookout station way back in about 1938.  The Dept. of Natural Resources was responsible for the lookout station.

But do not look for it as you hike to the summit as it was moved in an effort to preserve it’s history.  It now resides in Entiat (inn-tee-at), Washington.

Instead, at the summit, you will find several fenced in towers for communications.

The Butte rock and towers

The Butte rock and towers

What Will I See

Near the fenced towers you’ll note a large rock that is accessible to the general public.  From that point, the view can be seen in all directions.  If you are adventurous, by carefully climbing the rock, you will be given an even better viewpoint advantage.

Being able to see far into the horizon you’ll note Lake Chelan itself, along with the very powerful Columbia River and Cascade Mountain Range.

The Mighty Columbia River

The Mighty Columbia River Heading For The Pacific Ocean

Often times in the early spring and late summer, you’ll be able to see pockets of wild mountain flowers that dot the landscape.  This in itself is often enough to entice folks to the summit.

Hang Gliders Galore !

Want a better view?  Many choose to pack in their hang gliders to the summit and launch from there.  It has become so popular that there is  an area set aside just for this activity.

It’s just a few hundred feet down from the summit with a great launching platform.

Be mindful though, that if you are a potential hang glider pilot, the Chelan officials require each of you to have a fire extinguisher and shovel in each vehicle that goes up the Butte.

Columbia River

From the higher elevation of the Butte, you’ll note how peaceful the Columbia River seems to be.  Its length covering a distance of some 1240 or more miles, with it’s headwaters in Canada.

However, it is far from “peaceful” at its exit into the Pacific Ocean.

Cape Disappointment is its Northernmost edge.

The name Cape Disappointment comes from John Meares a British Captain who searched for the river in vain and not finding it, believed that it did not exist.  Needless to say…he was disappointed.  🙁

The Dam River

The use of water to generate electricity is not new.  Though much of the river goes through Washington along with bordering between Washington and Oregon, the entire Pacific Northwest benefits from it.

With more than 400 dams producing hydroelectricity, it is literally, the most developed river in the world for electric power.  With so much “cheap” electricity at hand, it generated huge industrial growth in the Pacific Northwest.  Jobs are aplenty!

However, with so many dams on a single river, it does have its drawbacks.  A much noticed decline in fish runs, mainly salmon, have come about over the years.

What About The Mouth And The Pacific Ocean?

Though the name Pacific when translated, means ‘peaceful’ especially as compared to the turbulent Atlantic Ocean, it is anything but peaceful where the Columbia spills into the Pacific Ocean.

In fact, with more than 160 Million Acre-Feet of water being discharged daily, it can be quite hazardous to water craft.

Hazards at the Columbia

Hazards at the Columbia Mouth

On the other hand, the U.S. Coast Guard takes advantage of those rough waters for training purposes.

The water is so turbulent that when training for ocean rescues, the mouth of the Columbia is the place to be.   It simulates conditions of a highly volatile storm out at sea, but with land safely nearby.

Many lives have been saved because of the rescue training performed here  by individuals from around the world.

Practice Rescue operations

Practice Rescue operations  where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean

Back To The Butte

Now that you have a bit of history of the Columbia River, why not take advantage of the short hike/drive to the Butte.

Once you’ve completed your journey, getting back into the township of Lake Chelan, you’ll be able to say to all that you meet … “I’ve hiked the Butte!”

Written by :  Tom McDaniel Share this site

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