The wildlife and plant communities are interwoven with the human history of Ledges. Humans have appreciated this unique area for thousands of years. Archeological evidence found within the park dates to around 4,000 years ago. At the time of European settlement, the Ledges area was inhabited by the Sauk, Fox (now the Mesqwakie) and Sioux. Native American mounds in the vicinity contain artifacts acting as silent reminders of the area's past inhabitants.
The beauty of the canyons and bluffs of Ledges very quickly became a major attraction to the growing local communities. Ledges was proposed as a state park as early as 1914. The first park custodian, Carl Fritz Henning, was appointed in 1921. In 1924, the Ledges officially became one of Iowa's first state parks.
Park facilities constructed of native timber and field stone by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930's are still standing today. These examples of fine craftsmanship include an arch stone bridge, shelter in Oak Woods, stone trail steps and the stone shelter in lower Ledges.
Ledges has a long history of being flooded by the nearby Des Moines River. The major flood water levels have been recorded on a "flood pole" located in the lower area of the park.