kayak on still mountain lake with distant peaks obscured by smoke

NPS Photo

Kayaking, canoeing, and motor boating are popular activities on Gorge, Diablo, and Ross lakes, and Lake Chelan. Ramps and launches are located at Gorge Lake, Diablo Lake, the north end of Ross Lake at Hozomeen, and Lake Chelan. There is not a boat launch on the south end of Ross Lake, and Ross Lake is not accessible by car from State Route 20.

Boat Rentals

There are no boat rental options for either Diablo or Gorge Lakes.

The Ross Lake Resort rents motorboats, kayaks, canoes, and other equipment for Ross Lake, as well as offering a water taxi service. Limited paddle craft rentals are available at Stehekin on Lake Chelan.

Boat Camping

Boat-in camping is available on Ross and Diablo lakes, and Lake Chelan. See also the guide to boating on Ross Lake. Please note that boat-in camping on Ross Lake and Diablo Lake requires a backcountry permit issued from the Wilderness Information Center. Boat-in camping on Lake Chelan requires a federal dock permit.



  • Personal watercraft (jet skis, etc.) are not allowed in any part of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex.
  • Four stroke engines, direct injection two-stroke engines, or equivalent technology are required for motorboats on Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, and Gorge Lake. All engines must meet 2006 EPA clean engine requirements.
  • Water sports that involve towing behind a boat, such as waterskiing or tubing, are prohibited in all parts of the park complex.
  • Boating under the influence is illegal and not permitted. Operating a vessel while intoxicated is dangerous, and alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Always have a designated operator.

Portage Notice for Ross and Diablo Lake Boaters

There is no boat launch on the south end of Ross Lake. Boats must be portaged between Diablo and Ross lakes. For boaters approaching from Diablo Lake: Use the portage dock for all canoe and kayak portage activities. Do not use the ferry dock. The portage is 1.2 miles over a gravel road, with an elevation gain of 525 feet, elevation loss of 100 feet. Ross Lake Resort offers a portage service. It is not possible to portage larger power boats, or any other boat that cannot be carried between Diablo and Ross lakes.

A portage phone is installed near the dock for visitors to call and request portage service from Ross Lake Resort. For portage questions or updates regarding portage service call Ross Lake Resort at 206-386-4437.

The Ross Dam Trail (milepost 134 off State Route 20) could also be used as a portage route to Ross Lake if needed. This is a rocky, switchbacking trail that descends one mile and 900 feet to reach the lake.



The Skagit and Stehekin rivers attract many whitewater enthusiasts for rafting and kayaking, especially during the summer months.

The Skagit River is accessible via a boat launch near Goodell Creek Campground at mile post 119 on State Route 20 and the Copper Creek Take-Out near mile post 112. The approximately 9 miles of river between the two access points features class II to class III rapids with few options for taking out and portaging around the whitewater.

The Stehekin River is accessible via a boat launch at the Harlequin Campground.

Find local outfitters on the Guided Services page to help you plan your trip.


Boating Safety

Water temperatures in the park complex seldom reach above 50°F (10°C). Accidental cold-water immersion can be fatal within minutes. Hand powered watercraft overturn frequently and it can be extremely difficult to get to shore or out of the water.

Take precaution when recreating on water:

  • Wear a properly fitting life jacket - it can save your life!
  • Know the weather forecast. Sudden gusty winds and swells are common in the afternoon but can occur at any time.
  • Wear synthetic clothing appropriate for the conditions. Consider air AND water temperature.
  • Have a plan for self-rescue if you fall in the water.
  • A roaring river.
    Lake and River Conditions

    Check out current conditions before heading out on the water.

  • Two kayakers paddle on a lake.
    Boat-in Camping

    Boat-in camping is available on Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, and Lake Chelan.

  • A person in a canoe floats on a lake surrounded by mountains.
    Ross Lake

    Ross Lake provides opportunities for visitors to experience a scenic reservoir surrounded by mountain wilderness.

Last updated: May 31, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284


360 854-7200

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