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The stuttered origins of a popular recreational site on Deschutes National Forest

PHOTO COURTESY OF BOWMAN MUSEUM
 - Elk Lake Lodge has gone through many changes in the past 100 years, but is still open today.

Elk Lake Resort is located at Elk Lake, six miles west of Mount Bachelor. As early as 1915, people began to forge 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 of visitors. The years of 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 lodge made of logs and a resort. The new lodge enjoyed immense popularity and brought a whole new wave of recreationists.

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

There were so many people summering at Elk Lake that the postal service had a small post office installed. The post office was established at the lodge on June 10, 1924, with Allen Wilcoxen serving as the first postmaster. The post office was first discontinued on Oct. 11, 1954. It was re-established on June 16, 1955 and closed for good on Sept. 15, 1955.

The lodge grew in popularity, but in the mid-1930s, 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. A big snowfall in 1940 re-established the lake level.

In 1940, the Symons family bought the lodge and began making plans to upgrade the resort. Unfortunately, in 1941, World War II involved the U.S., and business suffered as the public focused its energies elsewhere. By the early 1950s, business had resumed, and expansion had begun in the summer of 1954. But the winter of 1955 was hard and almost 20 feet of snow fell. It crushed the new building and severely set back plans. 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. The resort continues to operate today.


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