There is something special about time spent on the shore of an Indiana lake. That experience creates fond memories for generations of families. Patona Bay Marina & Resort on Lake Tippecanoe has been a part of those memories since the 1930s.
It all started in 1904 when George Paton I traveled from Indianapolis to camp at Kalorama Park on the north shore of Lake Tippecanoe. The lake is the deepest natural lake in the state – a feature which makes the Tippecanoe experience one of a kind.
“He loved the lake area and sold canoes, fishing boats and sailboats to his friends,” says his grandson Robert Paton, who, with his brother George III, owns and operates the resort, the marina and the boat sale functions of Patona Bay.
In 1928, along with his son George II, he moved the boat sales and outboard motor business to the west shore of Lake Tippecanoe. Camping started in 1933 with tents and small trailers. Lighting was provided by a 32-volt Delco generator, Paton recalls. Rental cabins were added in the late 1930s, with additional cabins added in the 1950s.
Patona Bay had a resort feel from the beginning, with camping, picnicking, a swimming beach and boating. Other amenities such as the marina came later to supplement the resort.
Guests at the resort could take a sightseeing ride on the lake when Paton added a passenger boat in 1935. There were also stops along the north shore including Rowlette Grocery, and on the south shore including Stony Ridge Hotel and the Arcadian Ballroom. As tourist popularity continued, several cottages were built in 1939 to supplement the camping accommodations.
Around 1946 George II, an attorney and real estate broker, decided after serving as a prosecuting attorney for Kosciusko County to devote more time to the camping and boating business. The first marina building was built in 1946, and was a sales and service location for a complete line of Evinrude motors, several boat lines, and marine accessories. George III and Robert grew up working in and building the business.
Later George III continued with the operation of the boat business after graduating from college. His brother Robert, a certified public accountant and realtor, came back to the operation to take over accounting and other functions of the management of the business.
Today the resort offers 120 camping spaces with full hookups for tents, campers and motor homes, and eight cottages. Paton describes Patona Bay Resort as “a one-stop destination” where families are on their own to enjoy what lakeside living can be, even if it’s for the summer season, a month, or a week or two.
“The main activities are related to lake access and getting together with friends in the park,” Paton says. “There is a snack bar at the beach that serves soft ice cream and other snacks. The marina next door is convenient for having maintenance done on your boat.”
The appeal of the lake for those seeking a little relaxation and fun in the sun and water is not lost on the Paton family. For many, the traditional summer vacation is a stay at Patona Bay. When it’s a holiday, Patona Bay adds to the fun with sponsored activities on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.
“Most of the campers come back every season, with some now in the third and fourth generation,” Paton says.
Patona Bay’s place in the history of Lake Tippecanoe is assured when the next generation of campers find its way to the shore again and again. The resort is poised to continue to welcome families for many more years, even as it approaches the century mark in the next decade. For Paton, that is the motivation to keep on delivering a lakeside getaway unlike any other.
“The most satisfying part is seeing families enjoying themselves in a relaxing activity and building lifelong family memories,” he says.
Patona Bay Marina & Resort is located at 162 EMS T33 Lane in Leesburg. To contact the resort, call 574-453-3671. For more information, visit patonabay.com.
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