Elk Rock State Park is located on Lake Red Rock, one of Iowa's large impoundments. The area had been inhabited by Native Americans dating back more than five thousand years to the Archaic Culture. In 1842, the Sac and Fox Indians granted white settlers right to this land. The name "Elk Rock" has been attributed to the unusual rock formation which is located on the south side of the river in the park. Many towns accommodated the white settlers and traders including: Cordova, Dunreath, Fifield, Percy, Red Rock and Rouseau. Although these settlements no longer exist they were within the area now known as Lake Red Rock.
In 1960, the United States Army Corps of Engineers began construction on Red Rock dam which was completed in 1969. The Corps of Engineers leased land along the Red Rock reservoir to the Iowa Conservation Commission in 1969 for construction of North Elk Rock. In 1978, the state obtained a lease for property on the south shore of the reservoir. This land became known as South Elk Rock. Today Elk Rock State Park comprises the main Elk Rock Park area, which has both day and night facilities, and the bridge area that is a day use picnic area.
Lake Red Rock is a major stopping-off area for waterfowl and other migratory species in both spring and fall, including white pelicans and bald eagles. The reservoir area also serves as a habitat for other plants and animals species, including more than 200 species of birds, 54 species of trees, 62 species of wildflowers, 43 species of fish and 35 species of mammals.