Chelan is third in a series covering Washington’s 39 counties, including how they got their names.
If you look at a map of Washington, you’ll notice a long body of water gently winding across the northern Cascades. This blue swath is not a river, but Lake Chelan, a long, narrow lake that is a scenic icon that draws tourists to the fourth county in our snapshot series, Chelan County.
Chelan is named after the 55-mile-long lake that snakes near its eastern border. Pronounced sha-LAN, the name derives from the Native American phrase “Tsill-ane”, which translates as “deep water.” Lake Chelan certainly qualifies, considering it is up to 1,500 feet deep.
Sprawling Chelan County covers 2,931 square miles, making it the third largest county in Washington. It was established in 1899 out of sections of Okanogan and Kittitas counties, just 10 years after Washington was granted statehood. With its population of 73,967, Chelan has a population density of about 25 people per square mile, giving it a largely rural feel.
In its expansive territory, Chelan offers beautiful alpine views of snow capped mountains and pine forests. Nestled among the Cascade Mountains are towns such as Wenatchee, the county seat, and Leavenworth, a picturesque Bavarian style town that is home to notable Oktoberfest and Christmas celebrations. A trip to Chelan County offers plenty of sights, recreation, and hospitality.