Boating on Ross Lake
Ross Lake is a reservoir with changing water levels. The lake is generally at full pool from July - September. Docks are not usable at low water levels. For an elevational chart that shows when docks and ramps are usable, check out the Ross Lake Elevations for Dock Use handout (pdf 112K).
Even in summer, the water temperature in Ross Lake seldom gets above 50°F (10°C). Falling in the lake or getting caught in a sudden storm can rapidly bring on hypothermia, the lowering of body temperature to a point at which the body can not maintain its own heat. Always carry raingear and extra food, and be prepared to make an emergency camp or for sudden weather changes.
Water taken from the lakes and nearby streams may contain micro-organisms such as giardia which can cause serious intestinal disorders. Always boil or treat drinking water.
All federal and state boating regulations are enforced on the lakes. Approved life jackets, oars, bailing buckets and running lights are all required. Check your boating gear before leaving home.
Ross Lake water level is generally full from late June through mid-September. During other months of the year, drawdowns of the reservoir expose rocks, snags and other underwater hazards. Watch for floating logs, debris, shallows and submerged obstacles at all times.
Strong gusty winds and whitecaps occur frequently and without warning. It is safest to travel along the eastern shore of both Ross Lake and Lake Chelan where there are more landing sites, camps, and trail access. On Ross Lake, it is frequently calm in the morning with breezy south winds from afternoon to early evening. A comfortable paddling distance for most groups is 5-7 miles per day.
Nineteen boat-in camps are available along the shores of Ross Lake. All Ross Lake campsites are equipped with fire-rings, picnic tables, vault toilets, and bear-resistant food storage boxes. Some have docks. A backcountry permit is required for any overnight camping at these sites.
Although most people never see them, grizzly and black bears, mountain lions, and wolves can be encountered along the lakeshore. Store food out of reach of bears. Use the 4-10 rule: 4 feet (1.2m) from the trunk of trees and at least 10 feet (3m) off the ground. Keep all wildlife healthy and self-reliant by not feeding them. Special food storage containers are available at selected camps. Portable canisters may be checked out from permit offices to store food safely and effectively away from animals.
Carry out all trash and keep a clean camp. Use driftwood for firewood. The cutting of any standing tree (living or dead) is prohibited.
Ross Lake Resort is open June-October and is the only lodging facility on Ross Lake. There is no direct road access to the resort--hike or boat in only. The resort rents paddle and motor boats, and operates a water taxi service to all major trailheads and camps along the lake. The resort also provides portage service between Ross and Diablo Lakes. Contact the resort directly for information on these services.
Last updated: January 31, 2017