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Overview

Once the home of several Indian tribes, Elkhart was founded in 1831 by Dr. Havilah Beardsley who bought land from a Pottawatomie chief. Legend says that the new settlement was named after Shawnee Indian Chief Elkhart, cousin of Chief Tecumseh and father of princess Mishawaka after whom neighboring Mishawaka is named. Because of the water power of the St. Joseph and Elkhart rivers, the city flourished. The area became home to a vibrant Amish community. A busy junction of major railways, Elkhart soon developed into a manufacturing mecca. Musical instrument factories spread the name of Elkhart, as did the addition in 1934 of the first trailer ...

Once the home of several Indian tribes, Elkhart was founded in 1831 by Dr. Havilah Beardsley who bought land from a Pottawatomie chief. Legend says that the new settlement was named after Shawnee Indian Chief Elkhart, cousin of Chief Tecumseh and father of princess Mishawaka after whom neighboring Mishawaka is named. Because of the water power of the St. Joseph and Elkhart rivers, the city flourished. The area became home to a vibrant Amish community. A busy junction of major railways, Elkhart soon developed into a manufacturing mecca. Musical instrument factories spread the name of Elkhart, as did the addition in 1934 of the first trailer factory. By the late 1940s, Elkhart was known as the "RV Capital of the World" with more than 50 percent of the nation's recreational vehicles manufactured there. Visit the RV/MH (Manufactured Housing) Hall of Fame Museum to trace that history from early camping trailers of the 1930s to modern recreational vehicles with all the comforts of home. For a city its size (population about 52,000), Elkhart has some great museums, such as the Midwest Museum of American Art with more than 2,500 works in its permanent collection including paintings by Norman Rockwell, Grant Wood and Grandma Moses. Elkhart also is said to have the first water park of its kind in the world. The downtown NIBCO riverwalk features an ice skating/roller-blading path depending on the time of year. In the winter, it's a traditional skating rink with an ice-paved trail. In warm weather, it turns into a free water spray park. In late June, the city hosts the renowned Elkhart Jazz Festival on the banks of the Elkhart River.

Jackie Finch
About the Expert

Jackie Sheckler Finch has written several guidebooks, including The Unofficial Guide to Campgrounds in the Great Lakes States, and four times she was named Travel Writer of the Year by Midwest Travel Writers Association.

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Jackie Finch for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    June for the Elkhart Jazz Festival