A scenic view of the Colchuck Lake against blue sky in bright sunlight, in Chelan County, Washington.

Colchuck Lake, Washington

Colchuck Lake is a freshwater lake situated on the western side of The Enchantments, a region of the Central Cascades in Chelan County in the US State of Washington. Being one of the state's most beautiful alpine lakes, the Colchuck Lake is surrounded by polished granite cliffs, tall craggy peaks, glaciers, and a forest. This turquoise blue lake is only accessible by one of the Pacific Northwest's most popular hikes, the Colchuck Lake Trail. The Icicle and Peshastin Irrigation Districts (IPID) manage Colchuck Lake, which serves as a water storage facility for irrigation.

Geography Of Colchuck Lake

View of Colchuck Lake in Leavenworth, Washington
View of Colchuck Lake in Leavenworth, Washington.

Colchuck Lake is situated at the southeastern corner of the Icicle Creek subbasin, about fifteen miles from Leavenworth. Geologically, Colchuck Lake is located within a "cirque," a glacier valley's summit where high cliffs form a bowl-shaped basin. Depending on the lake's depth, it has a maximum elevation of 1,699 m above sea level and a surface area of around 0.35 sq. km. The lake's typical storage capacity is about 1,570 acre-feet, with a tributary basin of 941 acres. The lake can be accessed by the 4-mile Colchuck Lake Trail, which begins at USFS Road 7601 and travels across Eightmile Creek before turning towards the Stuart and Colchuck Lake Trailhead, where the road terminates.

A masonry dam that was built in the late 1930s to enclose Colchuck Lake has a spillway opening in the middle to manage overflow. A valve supported by a concrete pedestal rises 2 feet above high-water level and is situated 20 feet south of the spillway regulating the flow through the exit. From the top of the concrete pedestal, the gate is about 16 feet deep. The gate permits water to be released into an unidentified brook that feeds into Mountaineer Creek.

History Of Colchuck Lake

Icicle Irrigation District submitted a request in 1926 for permission to divert water from Colchuck Lake at a rate of 2,500 acre-feet each year for the purpose of seasonal irrigation. In January 1927, the State Supervisor of Hydraulics approved the desired sum by Permit Number 828. In addition, the irrigation district requested to raise lake levels due to insufficient summer irrigation flows. This request was granted by the Department of Public Lands in a 1927 ruling that permitted the irrigation district to overflow the lakeshores.

Colchuck Lake Trail

Sunset illuminates Colchuck and Dragontail Peaks over a frozen Colchuck Lake and a tent.
Sunset illuminates Colchuck and Dragontail Peaks over a frozen Colchuck Lake and a tent.

Colchuck Lake is a well-known hiking destination in the Pacific Northwest. Visitors to The Enchantments region of the Central Cascades get to see one of the first significant alpine lakes as they make their way up the demanding, lengthy trek. Forest Service Road 7601, commonly known as Eightmile Road, is where the route begins. Visitors first pass through a reasonably deep forest that is a part of Washington State's Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. The accessible portion of the trek offers sights of Mountaineer Creek, Colchuck Lake's main outflow. After ascending a series of occasionally unstable slopes and crossing a brook via a bridge, the main portion of the trek begins. Visitors eventually arrive at a juncture that connects Stuart Lake and Colchuck Lake.

Hiking Aasgard Pass in The Enchantments near Leavenworth, Washington
Hiking Aasgard Pass in The Enchantments near Leavenworth, Washington.

The next log bridge is where hikers should turn left and continue to reach Mountaineer Creek again. From the creek crossing to the lake, which is at a height of 5500 feet, the 1.5-mile trail can be steep and difficult. The Dragontail Peak and Colchuck Peak towering 3,000 feet above the lake's southern edge, offers stunning views. The trail continues along the lake's western bank, providing access to campgrounds and the route that leads to the Enchantments through Aasgard Pass. Around the lake's northern edge one can also find camping areas. From May 15 to October 31, one requires a permit to camp here overnight.


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