Elkhart County in part of the Elkhart-Goshen Metropolitan Statistical Area, which in turn is part of the South Bend-Elkhart-Mishawaka Combined Statistical Area. It is also considered part of the broader region of Northern Indiana known as Michiana, and is east of South Bend, Indiana, east of Chicago, Illinois, and north of Indianapolis, Indiana. The area is referred to by locals as the recreation vehicle (RV) capital of the world and is known for its sizable Amish and Old Order Mennonite population. For the latter reason, the county teams up with neighboring LaGrange County to promote tourism by referring to the area as Northern Indiana Amish Country.
Elkhart County has grown rather rapidly over the past couple of decades, which can be attributed to the growing RV industry. The latest population estimates suggest that Elkhart County continues to grow more than its neighboring counties.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the area now known as Elkhart was mainly inhabited by the Potawatomi tribe. Pioneers began settling in the area known as the Elkhart Prairie in 1829 and on April 1, 1830 Elkhart County was officially established with its original county seat in Dunlap. After some reorganizing of the county borders, the seat was moved to Goshen near the geographical center of the county.
There are several theories concerning the origin of the county's name. The first says that the county was named after an Elkhart tribe. However there is no historical proof that such a tribe existed. Another theory, one provided on the city's website, says that Elkhart's Island Park looks like an elk's heart. However, it is unknown how Beardsley could have known what the island looked like from above. Hot air balloons existed at the time but the first air flight did not take place until the late 19th century. A third theory, and the most likely, claims that the county was named after the Shawnee Indian chief Elkhart, cousin of the famous Chief Tecumseh, and father of princess Mishawaka for whom neighboring Mishawaka is named.