Enchantment Lakes, Washington, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Washington - North Central Washington -

Also known as:  Sprite Lake, Leprechaun Lake, Lake Viviane, Isolation Lake, Talisman Lake, Brisengamen Lakelets, Lake Brynhild, Lake Freya, Lake Rune. Crystal Lake, Shield Lake, Mesa Lake, Earle Lakes

The Enchantment Lakes are very different from the type of lake most people envision when thinking of lakefront vacations. There are no boats, no swimming beaches, and no sunbathers. In fact, there are very few people. That’s because the delicate ecology of these alpine lakes in North Central Washington’s Cascade Region requires the US Forest Service to limit visitors to permit only, with only 60 permits allowed at a time. Only the most physically fit of hikers can reach these spectacular lakes clustered above 7000 feet; even then, the majority of permits for camping are selected months ahead of the season by lottery. The hike is arduous, crossing several snow fields and loose rock, with major elevation changes. After the May to October permit season, only those experienced in ice climbing and avalanche survival dare attempt the ascent. But everyone who visits here claims they want to go back!

The Enchantment Lakes are a series of small glacially-fed lakes within two basins surrounded by some of the most rugged peaks in the North Cascades. Located within the Stuart Range, the entire area is within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. The lakes in the lower basin are at an elevation of over 4400 feet, while those in the upper basin are closer to 7000 feet. Thus, the lakes in the two basins are in different climate and altitude zones, with very different vegetation.

The lower lakes, those within the Snow Lakes Basin, are in a forested area, with autumn being the favored time to visit due to the display of golden color produced by the larch trees surrounding them. The three largest lakes within the Snow Lake Zone are Upper Snow Lake, Lower Snow Lake, and Nada Lake. Upper and Lower Snow Lakes are divided by a dam placed by the Forest Service to control water levels to out-flowing Snow Creek which flows into Icicle Creek and in turn, the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery and nearby orchard irrigation.

Several campsites are located near the shores of the lakes; no campfires are allowed, so stoves must be backpacked in. This is one trek where dogs are not allowed, as the local mountain goats tend to be afraid of them. Wildlife officials are concerned that the mountain goats are losing their fear of humans and strongly recommend campers not try to approach them.

Moving higher in elevation, hikers enter the Core Enchantment Zone which holds what is usually referred to as the Enchantment Lakes. Surrounded by the majestic peaks of Little Annapurna, McClellan and Prusik Peak, the 10 lakes and several small tarns are known by at least two competing names, one bestowed by early hikers and the official later named by the US Forest Service. The names they are generally known by are a combination of the two lists: Sprite Lake, Leprechaun Lake, Lake Viviane, Isolation Lake, Talisman Lake (called Inspiration Lake on US Forest Service maps), Brisengamen Lakelets, Lake Brynhild, Lake Freya and Lake Rune. Crystal Lake is seen in the same basin to the south, while to the north, a day hike through Prusik Pass will lead the energetic hiker to Shield, Mesa and Earle Lakes. The Enchantment Zone is high enough in altitude that the treeline is left behind. Hikers are faced with a alien but beautiful landscape, barren and devoid of most vegetation. The Snow Creek Glacier can be seen off to the southwest between Little Annapurna and Dragontail Peaks. Snow in this area can fall at any time, with both June and late September noted for hikers encountering snow and freezing temperatures. In good weather, however, the scenery is fantastic, with clear still lakes reflecting the craggy peaks that surround them.

A number of informal spots are used as campsites, and a few pit toilets are located along the trails. There is no drinking water provided, and it is suggested hikers bring their own water in, although many find filtered lake water entirely suitable. No surveys have been done, so lake sizes and depths are not recorded. Most information is that reported by hikers, who are invariably long on praise but a bit short on scientific observations.

Heading yet higher toward the west, hikers are likely to encounter snow fields even during the summer months that can be treacherous to cross for inexperienced hikers. The Aasgard Pass leading toward Colchuck Lake can be especially strenuous and the trail poorly marked. The area around Colchuck Lake and neighboring Lake Stuart is well-supplied with small glaciers. Most visiting hikers wouldn’t dream of leaving the Enchantment Lakes area without a side trip to marvel at these local ice fields. Visitors can access the Enchantment Lakes from either end of the trail, with the Snow Lakes Zone more level and easily accessible.

Many experienced hikers in these mountains bring fishing gear secured to their backpacks. The lakes hold cutthroat trout, brook trout and rainbow trout. Although called ‘native’ trout, the fish are not found naturally in the lakes; the local trout have not had time to ascend the steep creeks and many waterfalls in the relatively short period of time since the lakes became ice-free. Instead, the Civilian Conservation Corps began stocking alpine lakes in the 1930s under the Depression-era jobs program. Later a Seattle-area volunteer group called Trailblazers began backpacking stocking fry in to the lakes in cooperation with the US Forest Service. So the original trout stock arrived the same way that today’s visitors do: hiking up the trail. Now, improvements in fish research allows stocking to be completed by helicopter.

There are no forms of lodging in the near vicinity of Enchantment Lakes; only primitive camping is allowed. The situation is much the same in the entire Alpine Wilderness Area. The small town of Leavenworth is only abut 15 miles from the Snow Lakes end of the trail and holds everything that visitors need. A number of farm-stays, golf course condos, hotels, retreats, chalets, cottages, inns and RV parks are located very near the Enchanted Lakes area. Leavenworth also holds several venues dedicated to the Arts including a theater, music center, town band and handbell ringer group. The town maintains a Bavarian atmosphere and possesses many specialty shops offering metalworking crafts and unique gifts.

In winter, cross country and downhill skiing are nearby. As home base for an Enchantment Lakes adventure, Leavenworth possesses everything a visitor will need except the skill and physical fortitude to make the trek itself. Real estate can be found for purchase near Leavenworth, but is in high demand in this growing recreation destination. So, pack up the hiking boots, gather up a permit and Forest Service map and come see the Enchantment Lakes. It’s a trip that will leave you with memories for a lifetime.

Things to do at Enchantment Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Ice Climbing
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Enchantment Lakes

  • Brook Trout
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Enchantment Lakes Photo Gallery

Enchantment Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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