In 1897 Willard Trumbell homesteaded the present day site of Elk River. The homestead was purchased by the Potlatch Lumber Company in 1909, where the first ALL Electric Sawmill in the country was started in 1910. The Milwaukee and Puget Sound Railroad extended it's line from Bovill to Elk River at this time. The name of the fast growing town was then changed from Trumbell to Elk River. The population in 1911 was around 1200 not including the families in Camp C, one of the largest woods camps. Between 1911 and 1930 about 40 businesses were operating in town, representing about every kind of business. The first newspaper was called the Sentinel. When William Marineau bought the paper, he changed the name to the Elk River News. Later he moved to Moscow and started the Daily Idahonian. In 1911 the Elk River School Board solicited bids to build a new school. The building still stands today on the hill above town.
The Elk River Mill remained operating for about 20 years until Elk River's future began to decline when a newer and bigger saw mill was built at Lewiston, Idaho in 1927. Then in 1929, blister rust attacked the white pine trees and the great depression hit the area in 1930 and the town was one of the hardest hit in the area. The mill was phased out over a period of two or three years. The store lumber was sold or moved. Work at Camp C started again briefly in 1932 and then faded out entirely. By 1933, most of the employment opportunities were eliminated; the bank closed and houses were moved out of town, many of them selling for as little as $15 dollars each. In 1936 the company deeded the town its property and turned over the water and light system for practically nothing and the population had declined to around 400. In 1944 plans for an airfield were approved, and the airstrip was put in use by 1945. The airstrip is still used today.
Elk River has a current population of 153 and is located 53 miles northeast of Moscow on Highway 8. Elk River and its surrounding areas offer many activities, including hiking, cross country skiing, hunting, camping, snowmobiling as well as sightseeing. Elk Creek Falls, located just two miles from Elk River, is one of the largest waterfalls in the area. Elk River may not be the fastest growing towns in the area, but it has all the beauty and enjoyment as it did over 100 years ago.