Scenic Lakes and Rivers to Explore in Washington

Lake Wenatchee | Credit: Anubhav Saxena

For those looking to experience all that Washington’s scenery offers, many beautiful lakes and rivers are destinations for fishing, boating, or waterfront relaxation. Let’s look at some of Washington’s many rivers and lakes that are well worth a visit.

Lake Washington

Lake Washington is one of the biggest lakes in Washington, popular for boating, fishing, and swimming. Located in the Seattle area and with many restaurants and shops along the water, this sparkling blue freshwater lake is a common location for lake cruises and tours, along with many iconic Seattle events. 

Lake Washington | Credit: Michael Beener

Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan is a glacier-fed lake that runs for over 50 miles. This slender lake is surrounded by mountainous scenery, vineyards, beaches, and picnic areas, making it a tourist destination with much to offer. The clear, cold blue waters fill up in the summer with boaters and water sports enthusiasts enjoying water skiing, wakeboarding, and more. 

Lake Chelan | Credit: Colton Miller

Banks Lake

Banks Lake, in Central Washington, is a perfect spot to cool off on a hot summer day. This large reservoir is ideal for fishing bass and walleye, and nearby kayak and canoe rental shops make getting on the water a breeze. In addition to being picturesque and pleasant, this lake is often not very crowded. 

Columbia River

The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. It starts in British Columbia, flows through Washington, and ends in Oregon. It is one of the most significant sources of hydropower in the U.S., with roaring rapids and powerful offshoots. It is also a popular recreational waterway, attracting many anglers, boaters, and swimmers. 

Columbia River

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent is in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains at Olympic National Park, and it is among the most beautiful bodies of water in the U.S. This astonishingly deep lake – reaching a depth of 624 feet – is known for its frigid glacial waters with a deep blue color and surprising clarity. Visitors can stay at the charming Lake Crescent Lodge nearby. 

Lake Crescent | Credit: Dave Hoefler

Lake Wenatchee

Lake Wenatchee, in Wenatchee National Forest along the Cascade Mountains, is another glacier-fed lake with frigid but serene waters. Many swimmers frequent the lake, which is calm and pleasant on summer days. The mountainous backdrop and many hiking trails nearby make this lake a popular getaway destination, and the beaches, fishing spots, and campgrounds are busy throughout the summer.

Lake Wenatchee | Credit: Ken Kohnhorst

American River

American River is a small river near the Cascade Mountains in Wenatchee National Forest. It runs for approximately 20 miles, with forests and trails lining the water. It stands out as an excellent destination for fishing thanks to the many trout and whitefish that inhabit its waters. Reaching this river can require some trekking, but it is well worth it for its quiet natural scenery and stellar fishing environment. 

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