In April of 1889 the BELLE OF CHELAN cast off her moorings and set sail on a maiden voyage to the head of Lake Chelan. She was the first of many commercial vessels to ply the waters of the lake. The BELLE started a tradition that has spanned two centuries.
In the early days cargo consisted primarily of prospectors and their mighty dreams, an era which quickly gave way to tourists as word of the spectacular natural beauty found in the upper reaches of Lake Chelan spread throughout the country. That tradition lives on in modern day boat travel. The only things that seemed to have changed over the past 100 years are the names of the boats and the means by which they are powered. Due to rugged terrain, no roads were ever built to the end of the lake, which is the key reason the Northern valley remains as pristine as the day man first laid his eyes upon it.
The Current Fleet
There have actually been two boats called the LADY OF THE LAKE. The first was built in 1900 and was 113 feet long, the longest boat ever on Lake Chelan. After the addition of upper deck cabins in 1903, it was able to carry 125 passengers. The trip to the head of the lake required 8 to 10 cords of wood, and many stops were made to deliver mail and groceries along the way
The second one pictured here, was purchased by the Boat Company and moved to Chelan from Lake Roosevelt in 1946. Still in use for special Charters, it was retired from the Stehekin run in 1990, When the LADY EXPRESS was launched.
The Lady II
The Lady of the Lake II is the largest vessel in the fleet and is licensed to carry up to 350 passengers. It's 100 feet in length, and powered by two 12X71 Detroit diesel engines, producing a 1000 horsepower.
The Lady of the Lake II was built on Lake Chelan by the Lake Chelan Boat Co. In the early 70's the owners of the company anticipated the need for a larger vessel due to the increase in ridership and the trends pointing towards greater tourism in the Lake Chelan area.
The first step was to ask themselves can we do it? The answer from one self confident employee named Larry Cozart was "I THINK I CAN", and that was good enough for the owners. Plans were drawn and steel was ordered. The boat took about 5 years to complete, being able to work only as time and finances permitted.
The Lady Express
This is the newest boat in the fleet. It is the fastest passenger vessel ever to be launched for this service on Lake Chelan, cruising at a crisp 28 mph. It is powered by two V-12X92s, both of which are double turbo charged and after cooled, giving it capabilities of speeds in excess of 35 m.p.h.
It is all aluminum constructed, 65 feet long , and was built to Coast Gaurd specifications by Munson Marine in Edmonds Washington.
The Lady Express is licensed to carry 150 passengers and does so with ease. Three years of relentless planning finally came to fruit in June of 1990, when the nearly 1 million dollar investment was shipped from Edmonds. Accompanied by five State Patrol cars and three flag cars, it was brought over interstates and mountain passes to find its home on Lake Chelan.