Humanity and Mother Nature have been wrestling over this quasi-urban landscape. This trail winds through a rustic natural river course where dramatic seasonal flooding makes for large-scale geological features. Mixed into this sagebrush steppe community are the decades-old remnants of an era when humanity dumped its refuse off the nearest hillside. It's a little cleaner now, but a reminder of how long our trash can hang around; long after we are gone.
Hikers who wish for complete solitude and a pristine landscape will not find either here. What you will find is a river course connecting Lake Chelan, the third deepest Lake in the U.S., and the Columbia River. For eons, the annual spring runoff has gouged deeply into the glacially-deposited sediments between the Cascades and the Columbia. These steep banks and deep gorges are now home to bighorn sheep, rattlesnakes, and the rest of the shrub steppe community.
As this trail is built into a somewhat urbanized stretch of land, there are varying treads and a couple of places to join the trail. At its western end, the trail is paved and somewhat an extension of the Chelan Riverwalk. One half-mile east of the Chelan Gorge Dam is the shared parking with the Chelan Butte Trail. From here the trail turns to crushed gravel. This wide gravel path follows and old road bed for about a mile as it winds down the hillside to the river’s edge.
Views along this trail range from dramatic geological bank cuts to piles of abandoned metal scrap. This may not sound so appealing but it is a good reminder of who we are as a culture. As you get down to the water’s edge your senses will heighten; look for a cluster of grebes riding the waves, smell a small grove of virgin bitterbrush that has never felt the steely blade of a bulldozer, perhaps if you’re lucky some bighorn will have come down from the hills for a drink.
The trail ends somewhat abruptly at a narrow, steep sided bend in the river. This is a good spot to watch for waterfowl. If you didn’t read the informational signs on the way down catch them on the way back, they are well written.
WTA Pro Tip: When you leave the shared parking lot turn east (to the left) onto Iowa Ave which soon turns into Gorge Road. This road roughly parallels the gorge until it merges with the Columbia River. The road is rough and narrow but suitable for any car. This road winds about three miles to the small town of Chelan Falls. Along the way there are spectacular views down into Daybreak Canyon. Look but don’t enter this canyon. It is a realm for bighorn sheep and professional kayakers.