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Elkhart Lake is one of the heartland's oldest resort lakes. Ideally situated just one hour from Milwaukee and two and a half hours from Chicago, the lake lies in the heart of Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine State Forest. The 292-acre lake is spring-fed and one of the deepest lakes in Wisconsin. Situated in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan tourism region, Elkhart Lake has been a sought-after summer location since at least 1860.
Settled by German farmers in the early 1800s, Elkhart Lake got its name from the government surveyor who thought the lake's shape resembled an Elk's Heart. Summer visitors started to arrive in the 1850s, and the locals soon realized it was more profitable to act as landlords to visitors than to farm the thin soils of the kettle moraine.
By 1872 when the railroad finally came through town, people started to arrive from Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis and the southern states. The resorts around Elkhart Lake were famous for bathing and sailing during the day and gambling at night. Renown German actors and actresses gave performances at the Opera House in the village. At one point, Elkhart Lake contained 446 hotel rooms and 175 rooms for boarders in private homes. Those days of famous lakefront resorts slowly evolved into the Elkhart Lake of today.
Some old resorts, updated, still exist on the shores of Elkhart Lake. There are some year-round residents but many are summer homes only. Condos and resort development is increasing. The lake is still popular for sailing: Sundays are a no-wake day to give non-motorized watercraft control of the lake. The local sailing club holds races each Sunday.
Elkhart lake is an extremely clear and clean lake, ideal for swimming and kayaking. Fishermen enjoy catching Bluegill, Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Largemouth Bass, Muskellunge, Northern Pike, Rainbow Trout and Smallmouth Bass. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) maintains a public boat launch for the convenience of the public, and there is a public swimming beach. Ice fishing is a popular winter sport as are snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.
The Elkhart Lake Improvement Association maintains cooperative water monitoring and boating information, along with helping to assure reasonable regulation keeps the lake accessible and safe for all. All water sports and lessons are available, including waterski/wakeboard school, tubing. pontoon boats, bumper boats, sailboats and sailing lessons, fishing boats, guided fishing trips, paddle boats, paddle bikes, hydro-bikes and kayaks.
Established resorts along the lake provide unique vacation options including one with both a French culinary school and spa stays. Another is a refurbished Victorian-era resort hotel with fabulous views, cool breezes and nostalgic surroundings with modern comfort.There is live music every weekend at several local establishments. One event every year is an Olympic Distance Triathlon: 1.5K swim, 45K bike, 10K run. This is heavily attended and becomes more popular every year.
In 1955, Road America opened with world-famous road-course racing, specialized racing events, driving classes and geocaching. This attraction brings an entirely different group of fans to Elkhart Lake.
The Village of Elkhart Lake is a quaint little town that caters to lake visitors. There is a farmer's and artisan's market every Saturday, local museums such as Henschel's Museum of Indian History, and small theaters to enjoy. Local golf courses provide relaxation for the golfers in the family.
Nearby Sheboygan has several historical and natural history museums, including a children's museum. Activities and exhibits along the Lake Michigan shore will suit the Great Lakes aficionado to a tee.
Whether you wish to visit for a weekend, a week or a summer, there are lodging accommodations to suit your desires and budget. For those wishing to buy, condos on the lakefront often have vacancies. There is something for everyone on Elkhart Lake.
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