We both sat back and relaxed as the pontoon boat, the Elkhart Queen, was skillfully steered away from the dock by Captain Tom. Beautiful Elkhart Lake sparkled with diamonds of late afternoon sunshine and that same golden fall sunshine warmed our backs. It was the perfect start to a lovely evening in Elkhart Lake.
We had driven go karts and UTV’d at Road America , kayaked, and even taken a cooking class but this was turning out to be the best adventure of all. One that involved just sitting on the comfortable bench of this pontoon boat, listening to the knowledgeble Captain Tom narrate our way around the lake, and watching as the incredibly beautiful, clear waters of Elkhart Lake unfurled in front of us.
Legends tell that this quite lovely expanse of water was called “Me-shay-way-odeh-ni-bis” by the Potawatomi Indians who were the original inhabitants of the area. This translates to “Great Elk Heart Lake” and it was so named because apparently it resembles an elk’s heart. Tens of thousands of spring feed the lake and it is considered to be one of the cleanest lakes in Wisconsin. The lake is approximately 120 feet at its deepest point, is about 4 miles around and is the 4th deepest lake in Wisconsin.
In the early 1800’s Elkhart Lake was only accessible by horse and carriage or by horseback but in 1872 the railroad came to town and fashionable travelers from nearby Chicago and even St. Louis and Milwaukee loaded up their steamer trunks to get away from the heat of the city and came to the lake for a summer vacation. By the 20th century, six resorts had been developed around the lake offering a clean, healthy respite from city life and the area remains a quaint and charming place to spend some time. Gambling was an important part of Elkhart Lake’s history and by the 1920’s, gambling was out in the open, even though it was actually illegal at the time in Wisconsin. Eventually, the state got rid of gambling but tourism remains a mainstay of the town’s economy. Today the town boasts three Bed and Breakfast Inns and three beautiful lakeside resorts and hosts thousands of visitors year round.
Houses and cottages of all sizes can be found all around the lake, many of which have been owned by the same families for generations.
Some of the houses have boat houses which are just as charming or more so than the houses themselves.
The lake freezes over completely in the winter and deer find their way out onto the ice to stand and nibble the lower branches of the trees, to the point where it actually kills some of the branches.
Small inlets and coves lead out from the main lake and wildlife and lily pads find these areas especially enticing.
Our lovely evening on the lake slowly came to an end as the sun sank behind the trees, creating a sun-dappled path on the water and highlighting some fishermen.
It has been a perfect visit to a perfect little village with the most perfect, crystal-clear lake we had ever seen. Elkhart Lake had truly become one of our favorite places.
And this evening pontoon excursion was the perfect way to end our visit.
Full disclosure: Our experiences were provided by Captain Tom’s Elkhart Queen and by Elkhart Lake Tourism but as always, I will share my honest opinion about any travel experiences I have.Pin It