The Chelan Wildlife Area includes about 32,800 acres of land ranging in elevation from 710 feet along the Columbia River to 4,300 feet. Most of the area lies in eastern Chelan County. The White River Unit is located near Lake Wenatchee and the Pateros Unit is located in southwest Okanogan County. WDFW acquired most of the Chelan Wildlife Area as a result of a 1963 agreement with the Chelan County PUD to lessen the impact of the Rocky Reach Dam project on wildlife. WDFW manages the area primarily for big game and upland game birds but also manages it for a great diversity of other wildlife species. Wildlife using the area includes Neotropical birds, raptors, upland game birds, bears, cougars, mule deer, and bighorn sheep. The Columbia River, which is adjacent or near much of the wildlife area, attracts thousands of waterfowl and other water birds. Bald and golden eagle nesting territories occur on the wildlife area. On the Swakane, Entiat, and Chelan Butte units, there are nearly 1,800 acres of old agricultural fields that date back to the early 1900s homesteading era. Most of the fields on the Entiat Unit were seeded for perennial grasses in the late 1990s. Beginning in 2011, the restoration of over 1,100 acres old agricultural fields on Chelan Butte and Swakane Canyon was initiated. By the end of 2016, native grasses, forbs and shrubs have been seeded on all but 100 acres of these fields. Work to establish and maintain the native plantings on these fields will continue until at least 2021.
Shrubsteppe is the predominant habitat type through most of the area. Open Ponderosa pine habitat and denser mixed coniferous forest occur at higher elevations. Riparian vegetation occurs throughout the area's creek bottoms and in the vicinity of springs.
This area provides a great variety of recreational opportunities including hunting, photography, wildlife viewing, and camping. The wildlife area's numerous dirt roads, which are closed to motorized vehicles, offer good hiking, mountain biking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities.