When people in Elkhart County hear about going to the lake, they typically assume you are speaking of Southern Michigan or of the lakes in Kosciusco County. It is unusual for people to turn their mind east when they think of the lake. Just 20 minutes from Goshen in LaGrange County lies a treasure of lakes that others around the state have discovered and are enjoying at a growing pace.
“The lakes here are special,” said LaGrange County Realtor Penny Miller, “because they are glacial made, deep, clean, well loved and safe.”
The main lakes in LaGrange County are the Dallas Chain, consisting of five lakes joined together and making up more than 600 acres. Three of them are no wake, which means watercraft are only allowed at extremely slow speeds, and two of them are all-sports, meaning watercraft pilots can let the throttle out. Together, they offer plenty of entertainment options, including a campground, Coody Brown’s restaurant, several sandbars and excellent fishing.
In addition to the Dallas Chain there are many small lakes, as well as all-sports lakes Adams, Big Long and Oliver.
“Lagrange County is special because of the thousands of acres of nature preserves and parks we are so lucky to have,” Miller explained. “(LaGrange County’s population is) over 40 percent Amish, which slows the scene down over here. We have Shipshewana for shopping and great dining options, but it’s the lakes that make us all fall in love.”
According to Miller, homeowners on the lakes typically come from a three-hour radius including many from Chicago, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis. Approximately half of the homes are summer homes.
Lakers for life
Whitney Doyle is a longtime resident of LaGrange who has spent many summers on the Dallas Chain of Lakes.
“My family started renting a house on the lake for two weeks when I was in junior high,” Doyle remembered. “Eventually it turned into a month at a time. That was our family vacation. It was great to be close to home (and) be able to have all of our friends over. We spent all our time out on the boat, tubing, swimming, fishing. It was always so much fun.”
Doyle said she likes the sense of community around the lakes in the area, particularly going to Coody Brown’s for dinner.
“We are still vacationing there every summer,” she said, “even though all of us kids are grown.”
The lakes, Miller explained, provide the perfect spot to relax with a slow pace of life.
Stephanie Miller, Penny’s daughter, is a student at Indiana University in Bloomington. She grew up in LaGrange County and would spend summers, and even a few winter days, on the waterfront with relatives.
“There’s a certain lake mentality that dominates the chain of lakes, a delightful separation from the rest of the world,” Stephanie said. “People slow down, unless they’re skiing, of course. They take the time to look at the ducks, the herons, the calm. They forget about their stress and go fishing, floating, or boating. I cherish visiting the lakes, where people wave and smile at everyone they don’t know. The Indian Chain of Lakes mesmerizes people.”
It was at those lakes that Stephanie says she learned to catch frogs and baby turtles as a little girl, even before she could form coherent sentences. She would play, eat and even sleep on the water.
“I know I spent much more time in my country home,” Stephanie explained, “but my memories are on the water.”