by Jim Alt, Bob Kuntz, Kraig Kemper, and Andy Stepniewski

revised by Dan Stephens

North of Wenatchee, several rugged, southeastward-trending ridges and valleys dissect the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range, from the crest down to the Columbia River. In succession from the Wenatchee River, these are the Entiat Mountains, the Entiat River, the Chelan Mountains, Lake Chelan, and finally Sawtooth Ridge, whose northeast face drains to the Methow River. Alternate US-97 and US-97 follow the Columbia from Wenatchee to Pateros. For almost the whole 50-mile distance, the river is actually Lake Entiat, created by Rocky Reach Dam—a reservoir with impoverished habitat and limited birding access. Birding can be excellent, however, along the deep canyons that penetrate into the Cascades, accessible from the highway on a number of side roads. Typically, these canyons are grown to semi-arid shrub-steppe habitats at lower elevations, transitioning to dry Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir and then to moist forests at upper elevations.



Swakane Creek drains the south end of the Entiat Mountains to the Columbia. The rough and rocky track that follows this minor stream is worth enduring not only for birds, but also for scenery, wildflowers, and butterflies. From the combined US-2/US-97 just north of Wenatchee, go north on Alt US-97 to a primitive road (FR-7415) marked Swakane Canyon Rd (5.3 miles). Turn left to enter this spectacular canyon, known for its diversity of migrants and breeding birds, and even for its winter birding possibilities. Much of the lower canyon is within the Swakane Wildlife Area (19,200 acres).

In 0.1 mile, stop below a cliff (Chukar, Black-billed Magpie, Rock and Canyon Wrens). Check Water Birch and other riparian growth for Yellow-breasted Chat, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, and Bullock’s Oriole. Continue up for four more miles to the lower limit of Ponderosa Pine forest and patches of serviceberry shrubs. Watch for California Quail, Red-tailed Hawk, Golden Eagle, Mourning Dove, Calliope Hummingbird, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Dusky Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Violet-green Swallow, Mountain Chickadee, all three nuthatches, House Wren, Nashville Warbler, and American Goldfinch. The first of several Beaver ponds is reached in another three miles, then excellent riparian habitat and a series of larger ponds by the road—great habitat for Black-chinned Hummingbird, Red-naped Sapsucker, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Western Wood-Pewee, Willow and Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Cassin’s and Warbling Vireos, Tree and Violet-green Swallows, Black-capped Chickadee, Veery, Cedar Waxwing, Orange-crowned, Nashville, MacGillivray’s, and Yellow Warblers, and Black-headed Grosbeak. In winter, the alders in these swamps attract Pine Siskins.

In 1.5 miles, the road turns left and crosses Swakane Creek to a lush aspen grove and meadow where you can expect Calliope Hummingbird, Willow and Dusky Flycatchers, Cassin’s Vireo, Nashville and MacGillivray’s Warblers, and Chipping Sparrow. Or walk upstream on the opposite bank for a half-mile on FR-617 through forest, riparian, and meadow habitats. It is possible to see all three Carpodacus finches (House, Purple, Cassin’s) in this part of the canyon.

From here the adventurous can embark on a summer-only high-country trek that emerges onto the Entiat River Road. Continue up FR-7415 for 3.6 miles to an intersection with FR-7400. Turn right onto this road, and in 3.0 miles stop at the intersection with FR-5200. To the left, a one-mile hike up FR-5200 brings you to the top of Chumstick Mountain (elevation 5,810 feet)—a fine hawkwatching vantage in fall. Turning right from the FR-7400 intersection, FR-5200 follows a high ridge dominated by late-successional Western Larch for about five miles; continue down FR-5200 into Mills Canyon, which hits the Entiat River Road at the three-mile marker. Mixed-conifer forests with Western Larch (Williamson’s Sapsucker, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet), burns (woodpeckers, Dusky Flycatcher), Ponderosa Pine forests (nuthatches, crossbills), and finally open bunchgrass slopes (Common Poorwill at dusk, Vesper Sparrow) feature along this route.



The Entiat River basin reaches far into the heart of the Cascades, giving access to the Glacier Peak Wilderness (576,865 acres), one of Washington’s largest expanses of wild country. The Entiat River Road turns left from Alt US-97 less than 10 miles north of the mouth of Swakane Canyon. The road proceeds first through open farmland with orchards and some riparian habitats. Check the thickets near the Entiat River mouth on the left in a half-mile. (The old highway that follows the edge of the riparian zone downstream makes a good birding trail.) Hooded Merganser, Bald Eagle, Western Wood-Pewee, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Bullock’s Oriole occur here. Flycatchers, warblers, Western Tanager, and sparrows can be thick in migration, particularly during inclement weather.

Upriver, in another 5.5 miles, find the Entiat National Fish Hatchery. Tall Black Cottonwoods here have Red-eyed Vireo. Look for Veery, Gray Catbird, and many other species in the lush understory. Continuing along Entiat River Road, habitats in the lower reaches of the basin are always in transition due to recurring fires. Characteristic species of brushy lower elevations include Chukar, Golden Eagle, Calliope Hummingbird, and White-headed and Black-backed (in recently burned timber) Woodpeckers. Riparian areas have Red-naped Sapsucker, MacGillivray’s and Yellow Warblers, and Yellow-breasted Chat.

Turn right in 4.9 miles from the hatchery onto FR-5300 (aka Mud Creek Road). Driving this road for 12 miles to its junction with SR-971 at Navarre Coulee, just south of Lake Chelan State Park, you’ll see Ponderosa Pine forest including areas of burned timber. Brushy slopes with some snags attract Common Poorwill, Western Wood-Pewee, Dusky Flycatcher, and Orange-crowned and Nashville Warblers. Vegetation along Mud Creek, on the way up to the ridgeline, has Calliope Hummingbird, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Bullock’s Oriole, and other typical riparian species. The downslope segment along Johnson Creek is good for woodpeckers (Lewis’s, White-headed, Black-backed, Pileated).

Continue up Entiat River Road (becomes FR-51) to an intersection with FR-5900 in 17.8 miles. Here you may turn right and begin a summer-only, 28-mile tour up and over the Chelan Mountains (high point 6,600 feet) to Twenty-Five Mile Creek State Park on Lake Chelan. WARNING: This is an extremely rough road that requires a high-clearance four-wheel drive truck even in summer, and is generally not open until July. Boreal Owl and Pine Grosbeak have been noted at Handy Spring Campground 13 miles along this road. The Handy Spring and Junior Point campground areas are more easily accessed from the Lake Chelan side, but a four-wheel drive vehicle is still recommended. This area is generally not open until sometime in early July. Vast areas of old burns characterize the area from Junior Point to the lake via FR-59.

Silver Falls Campground, a bit less than a mile farther up FR-51 (Entiat River Road) from the FR-5900 intersection, is worth a stop. Beginning in the campground, the 1.2-mile Riverside Trail features tall, moist forest where you can expect Harlequin Duck (spring and early summer), Hammond’s Flycatcher, Pacific Wren, and Townsend’s Warbler. Areas of alder have MacGillivray’s and Yellow Warblers, and American Dippers can be seen from the several river overlooks. From the parking lot, the falls can be seen to the north. Black Swift nest at the falls but are best viewed from below in the early morning and evening. The trail to the falls is moderately difficult and has Western Tanager and Cassin’s Vireo.

The paved road ends about three miles above Silver Falls Campground, at an intersection with FR-5606. Moist forests in this vicinity have Gray Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain Bluebird, Veery, and Hermit Thrush. Northern Goshawk is regular along the North Fork of the Entiat River, in some of Washington’s largest stands of ancient forest outside designated wilderness areas. Northern Spotted Owl was found here in the past. Take FR-5606 about four miles to a trailhead. From here Trail #1437 follows the North Fork for some nine miles, reaching the boundary of the Glacier Peak Wilderness at Saska Pass (elevation 7,500 feet). WARNING: FR-5606 can be treacherous due to mud and rutting, and a high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle is required. This road is generally not open until early July.

As you head north on Alt US-97 toward Chelan, turn left into the Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center (2.7 miles from Entiat River Road). A half-mile trail winds through Ponderosa Pine, Bitterbrush, and Big Sagebrush, abutting tall granite cliffs. Look for Bald and Golden Eagles, Common Poorwill, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Say’s Phoebe, Clark’s Nutcracker, Canyon Wren, and Bullock’s Oriole. Migration brings many other birds; Golden-crowned and other sparrows may be found in winter.



A popular destination for vacationers and outdoor recreationists, the community of Chelan (year-round population 4,000) sits at the southeast tip of Lake Chelan, two miles inland from the Columbia River and about 40 road miles north of Wenatchee. Numerous nearby sites offer dry-forest habitats as well as opportunities to scope the lake for waterbirds.

The ornamental plantings and forest of Ponderosa Pine, Douglas-fir, and Bigleaf Maple at Lake Chelan State Park can be rewarding in migration and the early part of the nesting season. Look for forest species such as White-headed Woodpecker, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, and Brown Creeper. American Dipper can often be found by walking upstream along a well-beaten trail from the far end of the boat launch. Diving ducks, loons, and grebes are seen on the lake from fall through spring. Winter birds include Hermit Thrush and Pine Grosbeak as good possibilities. Birding is frustrating in summer, however, when the park is crowded with campers and powerboaters. The park is located about nine miles west of Chelan on South Lakeshore Drive (Alt US-97 for the first three miles, then right onto SR-971). If coming from the south on Alt US-97, turn left onto SR-971 about nine miles north of the Entiat River Road intersection and drive north for about nine more miles through Navarre Coulee to the park entrance.

Views of Lake Chelan, the Columbia River, and the wheat fields on the Waterville Plateau to the east are well worth the nerve-wracking drive to the top of Chelan Butte. About a mile and a half west of Chelan, turn left from South Lakeshore Drive (Alt US-97) onto Millard Street (also signed Chelan Butte Road), which soon changes to dirt. Dusty in spring and summer, super-steep in places, slick and often impassable after a rain, the 4.7-mile road to the summit is usually closed by snow in winter. Varied habitats along the way—deciduous thickets, Ponderosa Pines, steep slopes with bunchgrass and some sagebrush—all attract interesting birds. Park where you can and walk over the hillsides, particularly near the summit (watch out for rattlesnakes in rocky areas). In spring and summer look for California Quail, Swainson’s Hawk, Golden Eagle, White-throated Swift, Lewis’s and White-headed Woodpeckers, Say’s Phoebe, Western and Eastern Kingbirds, Clark’s Nut-cracker, all three nuthatches, Brewer’s and Vesper Sparrows, and many others. Fall and winter possibilities include accipiters, Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, and Pine Grosbeak.

If you are stopping in Chelan, paved Chelan Riverwalk Park makes a fine diversion right in the center of downtown. Park on Emerson Street about 200 yards south of East Woodin Avenue. Walk southeast along the water, cross the narrow neck of the lake on the bridge, then continue northwest to the West Woodin Avenue bridge to return to the starting point. In winter, check for a sprinkling of waterfowl, Common Loon, Pied-billed and Western Grebes, and Belted Kingfisher. In migration, Yellow-rumped Warblers flit in the trees. Four species of swallows are common in summer.

Scan the cliffs at the Chelan Falls Overlook to see Golden Eagle, White-throated Swift, and Canyon Wren. Take SR-150 south 2.4 miles from Alt US-97 in Chelan.

In the opposite direction, SR-150 leaves Alt US-97 in Chelan and winds along the north shore of Lake Chelan. Stop at any of the pullouts to watch for Redhead, Greater Scaup, Bufflehead, and Common Goldeneye, Common Loon, and Horned, Red-necked, and Western Grebes. In 6.7 miles, turn right on Wapato Lake Road and climb through apple and pear orchards alternating with new development, passing Roses and Wapato Lakes (waterbirds, especially in fall and spring). After a peek at the marsh just beyond Wapato Lake, proceed to Lower Joe Creek Road (4.1 miles from SR-150). Turn right here, then left in 1.9 miles onto Grade Creek Road (becomes FR-8200), which passes through mixed pine and riparian habitat to Antilon Lake (2.0 miles), nestled in a rocky gorge with Ponderosa Pines (Pygmy Nuthatch, Cassin’s Finch, Red Crossbill). Beyond the lake, the landscape is one of scattered pines with thick patches of shrubby Deerbrush—the result of past fires. This habitat has many Common Poorwills, easily seen on an evening drive.



A narrow, glacier-forged trench, Lake Chelan probes 50 miles into the North Cascades. While the eastern end is developed, the rest is wild and scenic. To experience the lake, it is well worth taking the boat trip to Stehekin, a resort village at the upper end in the heart of the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Beyond is the vast North Cascades National Park and trail access to various USFS wilderness areas, making this the largest contiguous expanse of wild country in Washington.

The parking lot and docks for the Lady of the Lake are on Alt US-97 (South Lakeshore Drive) a half-mile west of downtown Chelan; a second boarding point is at Fields Point, 16 miles northwest of Chelan on South Lakeshore Drive. Frequency of service, duration of the trip, and fare vary according to the season and/or which of three boats you take. The most leisurely one-way cruise requires four hours, while the fastest boat makes the same run in an hour and a quarter. Contact the Lake Chelan Boat Company for full information (509-682-4584,

Lake Chelan is the third-deepest lake in the United States (1,528 feet). At one place its bottom is over 400 feet below sea level. Fed by 27 glaciers and 59 streams, the lake is cold and relatively unproductive for birds. Nonetheless, you might see a few diving ducks, Common Loons, Red-necked or Western Grebes, Ospreys, and Bald and Golden Eagles, especially around the small shallows and marsh on the approach to Stehekin. The bordering vegetation changes from semi-arid shrub-steppe and Ponderosa Pine to moist conifer forests as the boat travels deeper into the mountains, bringing a good possibility of seeing Mountain Goats or Black Bears on the cliffs and steep slopes.

Stehekin is a wonderful place to relax in an unhurried atmosphere. Plan on staying one or two days to extract the most from the birding possibilities. There are several primitive campgrounds in the area plus a number of homes or cabins available to rent. Three lodges provide more complete services. For information, contact the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce (800-424-3526, or stop by the National Park Service’s Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin.

Try to allow at least a few hours before reboarding the boat to see species near the boat landing, including, commonly, Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds, Olive-sided and Hammond’s Flycatchers, swallows (including Violet-green), Nashville Warbler, Western Tanager, and Cassin’s Finch. Just behind the visitor center is the three-quarter-mile Imus Creek Nature Trail, which climbs a hill with views. In spring, American Dippers forage along the lakeshore at the creek mouth, and Veeries often sing beside the creek. You can also take the narrated bus tour to 312-foot Rainbow Falls, 3.5 miles up Stehekin Valley Road. Black Swifts may nest behind these falls. Train your eyes skyward on occasion to look for them anywhere in the Stehekin area.

Most visitors travel up-valley by the National Park Service shuttle bus, which goes to High Bridge (11 miles). Alternatives to the bus include renting bicycles and riding up the road to the birding spots or renting a canoe and paddling around the head of the lake.

For the first 1.5 miles the Stehekin Valley Road parallels the east shore of Lake Chelan. In recent years, Horned Grebes have attempted to nest at the head of the lake. Trumpeter Swan, Harlequin Duck, and Osprey are occasionally observed near the mouth of the Stehekin River. Check the marsh, willows, and cottonwoods for owls (Great Horned and Barred), woodpeckers (particularly Red-naped Sapsucker), and breeding passerines such as Veery, Gray Catbird, Nashville and Yellow Warblers, and American Redstart.

A few hundred yards after passing the turnoff to Rainbow Falls (3.5 miles), take a dirt road left into Buckner Orchard, a pioneer homestead site. Look here in spring and summer for hummingbirds (Rufous and Calliope), flycatchers, warblers, Western Tanager, Bullock’s Oriole, and Cassin’s Finch. Harlequin Bridge and Campground are another three-quarters of a mile up Stehekin Valley Road (yes, Harlequin Ducks are sometimes seen here from mid-April through August). A couple of hundred yards past the campground, take Company Creek Road left to the National Park Service maintenance yard and check the pond area for Wood Duck and passerines. Birding is excellent along the Stehekin River Trail, which starts at the maintenance yard and meanders southward four miles through marsh (Beaver ponds) and riparian forest to Weaver Point at the northwest edge of the lake. Western Screech-Owls have nested near the south end of the Stehekin Airport, and a pair of Bald Eagles has nested near Weaver Point.

From Harlequin Bridge continue up Stehekin Valley Road another six miles to High Bridge, a major trailhead for North Cascades National Park. Of interest to birders is the 1.2-mile trail to Coon Lake, a swampy lake with waterfowl (Barrow’s Goldeneyes nest here) and excellent also for passerines. Northern Goshawk has been observed on the Old Wagon Trail from near Coon Lake and also along the first two miles of Agnes Creek Trail (trailhead 0.3 mile past High Bridge). Northern Spotted Owl was seen in this general area in the past. Stehekin makes a great base camp for hiking or backpacking into the wilderness. Free permits are required for overnight trips and may be obtained at the visitor center on a first-come, first-served basis.



Cooper Ridge forms the eastern end of the Sawtooth Ridge system that divides the Chelan and Methow watersheds. The high point, Cooper Mountain (5,867 feet), is 10 straight-line miles north and a bit west of Chelan. The driving distance is 25 miles, however—much of it over steep, twisting roads. Allow at least an hour for the trip. The main attraction for birders is the fall hawk migration (late August–late October). Typical bird species of farms, streams, cliffs, Ponderosa Pine forest, and shrub-steppe may be found at several places on the way up.

In Chelan, from the junction where SR-150 turns south to the Chelan Falls overlook, head east on Alt US-97. Travel 2.9 miles and turn left (north) onto Apple Acres Road. In 3.5 miles, stop by the roadside below impressive cliffs of gneiss to scan for Golden Eagle and other raptors and to listen for Canyon Wren. Peer downward from the west side of the highway to a kettle lake, an erosional feature remaining from the withdrawal of the Okanogan Ice Lobe at the close of the Pleistocene. Check the Ponderosa Pine forest for Pygmy Nuthatch.

Continue another 1.2 miles, turn left (west) onto Antoine Creek Road, and drive through farmlands. In late fall, Pine Grosbeaks have been found in the last orchard (2.6 miles) and at scattered sites in the dense riparian vegetation along Antoine Creek for the next three miles. The pavement ends in another 1.2 miles. Continue steeply uphill (west) on the main gravel road. Antoine Creek Road becomes FR-8140 (1.9 miles); the Okanogan National Forest boundary is in another 1.9 miles. From here to the intersection at the crest of Cooper Ridge (8.0 miles), nearly the entire landscape is of Ponderosa Pines, grown back in the wake of a huge fire in 1970. Bitterbrush covers many slopes, providing critical winter forage for a large Mule Deer herd. A small area of Lodgepole Pine and Engelmann Spruce forest may be found at the crest. The entire area is fire-dependent with stands of various ages displaying a mosaic pattern. Fires vary in intensity and size and will continue to affect this area into the future.

Under proper weather conditions, hawkwatching can be memorable at the Chelan Ridge Research Site, a cooperative project begun in 1997 by the (now combined) Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests and HawkWatch International. It has been documented as the best fall hawkwatching site so far discovered in Eastern Washington. Even though tens of thousands of raptors pass through the Cascades in migration, there are so many ridges that movement is widely dispersed across a broad front. Defying the general pattern, the Chelan Ridge site may see more than 100 individuals on a good day; 2000–3000 are tallied annually. The station is active from the last days of August to the end of October unless closed earlier by snow. Visitors are welcome.

From the T-intersection with FR-8140 at the crest of Cooper Ridge turn right onto FR-8020, which contours around the east side of Cooper Mountain. After 1.5 miles, park just beyond a cattle guard; the Forest Service has placed two portable toilets here. Find the rough, steep trail marked by ribbons on the west side of the road and hike about three-quarters of a mile across a sagebrush-covered, south-facing sidehill to the hawkwatching station, located on a promontory at an elevation of 5,100 feet. The ridge crest here is narrow; level sites for spotting scopes are limited. The view in all directions is fabulous—west to the high peaks of the North Cascades, north across the Methow Valley to the Tiffany Mountain area, east to the wheatlands of the northern Columbia Basin, and south to a sliver of Lake Chelan about 4,000 feet below. Bring all provisions; there is no water anywhere in the area. Sun protection may be important. Be prepared for wind and cold. Please pack out all garbage.

Favored hawk flight paths change with wind direction and during the course of the day; you will need to determine which quadrants of the landscape and the sky are most productive at the time of your visit. Sharp-shinned Hawk is the species most frequently spotted, followed (in descending order) by Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Osprey, Northern Goshawk, and Merlin. Seven other species occur in lesser numbers, including five or six Broad-winged Hawks each year—the great majority of the Washington records. In October 2000, a passing Northern Hawk Owl caused a stir.

For the shortest route to the Methow Valley, continue north on FR-8020 for 3.5 miles, turn right, and descend on FR-4010 (Black Canyon Road) for nine miles to join SR-153 above Pateros. If you are instead going back the way you came along Antoine Creek Road, keep left at Apple Acres Road and go 1.9 miles to US-97 above the Columbia River. Turn left and travel 4.4 miles to a boat ramp on the right. Ospreys nest nearby and are usually easy to spot. From fall through spring, scope the waters of the Columbia anywhere in this area for diving birds. Pacific Loons, though scarce, are seen regularly—particularly in stretches where the river is flowing (above reservoir levels). The junction with SR-153 in Pateros, gateway to the Methow Valley, is another 4.6 miles north.