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Lake Wenatchee area – Tumwater Canyon, Plain and Beaver Valley, Lake Wenatchee, Fish Lake

This route, described as a loop beginning and ending in Leavenworth, has an excellent variety of habitats and bird species.

Access and Logistics

Leavenworth, at the south end of this area, is on State Route (SR) 2, 100 miles east of Everett and 22 miles west of Wenatchee. The Lake Wenatchee/Fish Lake area is accessed off of State Route 207, which extends north from its intersection with State Route (SR) 2 15 miles west of Leavenworth and 86 miles east of Everett.

Camping is available in the state park and at private campgrounds in the area. Lodging (B&Bs, cabins and houses for rent, etc.) and several restaurants also located in the area. Click here for more information. All services and lodging can also be found in Leavenworth. Cell coverage is spotty in this entire area.

Major Habitats along Route
  • Large lakes with open water, and large bog (Fish Lake)
  • Dry forest with ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir
  • Steep-walled canyon
  • Riparian zones around the lakes and along streams.
  • Large hay fields.

Birds and Seasons to Visit

Seasons. Spring, summer, and fall offer the best birding trips here. Ice and deep snow deter winter birders. Spring and fall migrations are best.

Birds. A diverse assortment of waterfowl and other waterbirds, shorebirds, migratory and resident passerines, woodpeckers, and raptors.


Chumstick Highway to Plain and Beaver Valley. From the stoplight near Dan's Foods in Leavenworth, turn north onto Chumstick Highway (State Route 209) and travel 14 miles past Chumstick to Plain. Chumstick, Plain and Beaver Valley are pastoral with large hay fields. Look for meadowlarks, bluebirds, warblers, swallows, swifts, flycatchers, great-horned owls, and red-tailed hawks. Continue past the few stores in Plain and follow Beaver Valley Road west to Lake Wenatchee Highway. Turn left and within about ¼ mile, turn right on Cedar Brae and follow signs to Lake Wenatchee State Park (south unit).

Lake Wenatchee State Park. Lake Wenatchee State Park has several units, but the south entrance, approximately 3 miles from SR 2, is the best for birding. A Discover Pass, which can be self-issued at the site, is required for parking. Walk to the swimming beach and look for assorted waterfowl, and to the right (north) look for raptors, including bald eagles, on Emerald Island. Walk to the point of land nearest Emerald Island, to the headwaters of the Wenatchee River for geese, cormorants, and other water birds. Walk a trail east, along the river and look for hummingbirds and forest passerines, as well as woodpeckers.

Fish Lake. To access Fish Lake, travel on Highway 207 north from the south entrance of the state park, across the Wenatchee River bridge, to a Y in the road. Take the right fork, travel less than a mile (just past the Lake Wenatchee Recreation Club), and take the left turn onto a dirt road with a large sign “Cove Resort.” Drive in and pay $5 for parking. If desired, rent a boat (or bring your own) for floating Fish Lake, skirting the bog, and traveling up the lake. Looking at the lake from dock and lakeshore, obtain glimpses of various waterfowl, great blue herons, and raptors (be sure to take a scope). If one goes out in a boat and skirts the bog, there will likely be great looks at wood ducks, teal, bufflehead, phalarope, and many wetland species in the vegetation. Forest passerines and woodpeckers can be found in trees bordering the lake, and the resort owners stock seed and hummingbird feeders to attract finches, chickadees, nuthatches; rufous and calliope hummingbirds are common.

Tumwater Canyon (Highway 2) (suggested travel from west to east when birding, because pull-off points are on south side of this busy, 2-lane highway). Return to Highway 207 and travel south past the south entrance of the state park to SR 2, and turn left (east) to Leavenworth. The highway crosses the Wenatchee River and enters spectacular steep-sided Tumwater Canyon. Approximately 9 miles from SR 207, watch for high, steep Drury Falls, tumbling over a cleft in the canyon on the west side of the highway. At a pullout here, peregrine falcons may be seen. Continuing along SR 2 toward Leavenworth, pass Jolanda Lake, and continue three miles beyond the dam at the lower end of the lake and look carefully for the small parking area for the Penstock Trail on the right (west) side of SR 2 (this will be about 12½ miles from SR 207 and between mileposts 97 and 98). The trail crosses a steel bridge and follows the west and south side of the river. Ducks may be found in the quieter pools, but also watch the skies for peregrine falcons. The roar of the river will likely drown out the sounds of most birds. Beware! This is a very dangerous section of river—stay out of the water and hang on to children.

Side Trip

Sugarloaf Lookout/Entiat Ridge. From Leavenworth, travel north on Chumstick Highway for 2 miles, turning right on Eagle Creek Road. Travel to end of pavement and, and about 5 3/4 miles from Chumstick Highway, turn left on Van Creek Road (FR 7520). Follow signs for Sugarloaf Lookout. Road travels through dry subalpine forest, from ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir to subalpine fir in the higher elevations. Though this is generally a good gravel road, parts of it are steep and narrow, and not for the timid driver. High clearance vehicle recommended. Best time is fall, for the hawk migration. In past years there was a hawk counting and banding station on Chumstick Mountain, on the east end of the ridge. The west-east ridge is very long, and is a well-traveled corridor during the migrations. Sugarloaf is one of the few lookouts still staffed during fire season.


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