Pamplin Media Group – CENTRAL OREGON HISTORY: Elk Lake Resort a popular destination

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The Deschutes National Forest Recreation Site has attracted many visitors for nearly a century

Elk Lake Resort is located in Elk Lake, 6 miles west of Mount Bachelor. As early as 1915, people began to make their way to Elk Lake from Bend on trails that could hardly be called roads. In 1920, a wagon road was built between Bend and Elk Lake, and the road brought an increase in visitors. The years 1921-22 brought the Allen Wilcoxen family to Elk Lake, and it was Wilcoxen who obtained a permit from the Forest Service to build the first log lodge and resort. The new pavilion enjoys immense popularity and attracts a whole new wave of recreation enthusiasts.

By 1924 the resort offered lodge rooms and tent cabins which were soon replaced by log cabins. Residences have been built on national forest lots, under special use permits from the Forest Service, and a forest campground has been established. Groceries and supplies were available at the Elk Lake Lodge store and a restaurant served meals. In 1929, the Forest Service built a ranger station at Elk Lake in response to recreational pressure.

There were so many people summering in Elk Lake that the Postal Service had set up a small post office. The post office was established at the lodge on June 10, 1924, with Allen Wilcoxen as the first postmaster. The post office was first closed on October 11, 1954. It was reinstated on June 16, 1955, and permanently closed on September 15, 1955.

The lodge grew in popularity, but by the mid-1930s the lake was losing water and the lake level continued to drop throughout the 1930s. Residents along the lake helped Wilcoxen sink concrete in the lava tubes. The idea was that the water would escape through the lava tubes and the concrete would stop the flow. It didn’t help, and Elk Lake’s future looked bleak. A heavy snowfall in 1940 restored the level of the lake.

In 1940 the Symons family purchased the lodge and began making plans to modernize the resort. Unfortunately, in 1941, World War II involved the United States, and business suffered as the public focused its energies elsewhere. By the early 1950s business had picked up and expansion had begun in the summer of 1954. But the winter of 1955 was harsh and nearly 20 feet of snow fell. He crushed the new building and severely delayed the plans. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the lodge added guest cabins, bathrooms, and other amenities. After 1960, the lodge was owner operated by a succession of investors. The station continues to operate today.


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