Chelan, Washington

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Chelan (pronounced /ʃəˈlæn/, US dict: shə·lăn′) is a city in Chelan County, Washington, United States. The population was 3,522 at the 2000 census. It sits on the southeast tip of Lake Chelan, where the lake flows into the Chelan River.

Chelan is part of the WenatcheeEast Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area.



During a period of unrest between settlers and Native Americans in the 1870's, Lt. Colonel Henry Clay Merriam of the United States Army established Camp Chelan at the foot of Lake Chelan to control and safeguard the Indian population on the Moses Columbia Reservation. His family was with him for the 1880 Federal Census. The lake was largely non-accessible because of its sheer cliffs on most sides so a makeshift road was built from the fort to the Columbia River where a courier and mail service from Walla Walla were established. The fort only remained for about a year and was abandoned in October of 1880 when the troops relocated to Fort Spokane.

The first European settlers in the area were William Sanders and Henry Dumpke, who arrived in 1886. After traversing several cliffs and streams and losing their horse, they safely arrived at the foot of the lake and were welcomed by the natives who encouraged them to stake claims. The presence of these settlers paved the way for more settlers to move to the valley. In 1888, L.H. Woodin of Minneapolis arrived in the valley and paddled up the lake in a skiff. Impressed by the area, Woodin constructed a sawmill at the foot of the lake. Chelan's main street is named for Woodin. At the same time, local ranchers were beginning to discover that orchards could be planted without the need of irrigation.

The town was platted and lots sold quickly. A post office was established in 1890. A school was built in 1892 followed by the first resort hotel, taking advantage of the area's natural beauty. Following the Panic of 1893, hard times began in earnest but never effected Chelan completely. The first bank was established in 1893. Chelan was officially incorporated on May 7, 1902. In 1903, the city gained electric lights and water service via nearby Donaldson Springs. A permanent town hall was constructed in 1904 (but was destroyed by fire in 1927). The town continues to grow as an agricultural center and resort community which helps it thrive to this day.

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