Since 1915, when sportsmen like Los Angeles millionaire Herman O. Vogel began to trudge their way to Elk Lake from Bend on trails that could hardly be called roads, Elk Lake has been an instant hit. In 1920 a wagon road was built between Bend and Elk Lake and the road brought an increase of visitors. The years of 1921-22 brought the Wilcoxen family to Elk Lake, and it was Wilcoxen who built the first lodge and resort. The new lodge enjoyed immense popularity and brought a whole new wave of recreationists, many of whom built their own cabins. There were so many people summering at Elk Lake that the postal service had a small post office installed.
Wilcoxen built many of the first cabins on the lake, with the focus on boating enthusiasts and fishermen. The Elk Lake Yacht Club was christened in 1928, and boaters of many stripes held regattas and all that goes with a yacht club. The year 1929 saw the forestry department build a guard station in response to the pressure from recreation. During this period Wilcoxen had as many as a dozen cabins and tent structures. The lodge grew in popularity, but the mid-1930s nearly brought an end to the good times.
The lake was losing water and the level of the lake kept dropping all through the 1930s. Residents along the lake helped Wilcoxen pour concrete into the lava tubes. The thought was that the water was escaping through the lava tubes, and concrete would stop the flow. That did not help and the future of Elk Lake looked bleak. The only event that saved the lake was the snowfall of 1940. In the year 1940, the Symons family bought the lodge and began making plans to upgrade the resort. Unfortunately, the World War II kicked off in 1941 and business suffered greatly as the public focused its energies elsewhere. The war passed and people wanted to enjoy the great outdoor recreation that Elk Lake provided once again. By the early 1950s business had resumed with gusto and expansion had begun in the summer of 1954. But the winter of 1955 was hard and nearly 20 feet of snow fell and crushed the new building and nearly crushed future plans. Then, in 1968 fire threatened the lodge and surrounding cabins. The fire burned hot and fast, but the residents once again stepped in to help save the buildings with bucket brigades. The lake side twice more suffered damage due to fire, once in a 1998 blaze and again in 2004.
Throughout the 50s and 60s the lodge added visitor cabins, bathrooms and other amenities. After 1960 the lodge was owner operated by a succession of investors who loved the lake and the lodge. The Hap Taylor family owned the lodge for a few years and the Hackbart family owned and operated the lodge for 22 years, finally selling the lodge to Jim Bendis, owner of Bend Distillery. Elk Lake Partners took ownership of the property in 1994 and many of the structures, restoration, expansion and events that the public enjoys today was put in place by this passionate group of people.
Restoration and improvement of amenities continues with current ownership and over the next several years the public will continue to see an upgrade in cabins, docks, and the lodge, all in an attempt to keep step with the volume of people who come to enjoy the lake and it’s surroundings each season. They follow the tradition of owners who are truly enamored with the honor of caretaking Elk Lake Resort.
In the past twenty years, many new recreational activities, such as windsurfing and paddleboarding have grown to be an important part of Elk Lake recreation. All through the ups and downs the lodge as only grown in popularity.