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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.
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. The Oak Woods picnic shelter and nearby restroom, located in the eastern area of the park, are fully accessible.
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.The Hutton Memorial is located along a trail on the north side of the canyon.It honors Murray Lee Hutton, a strong conservationist and first director of the Iowa State Conservation Commission in 1935.The first park custodian, Carl Fritz Henning, was appointed in 1921.In 1924, the Ledges officially became one of Iowa's first state parks.About 13,000 years ago, glacial meltwater began to cut down through the sandstone, forming the park's dramatic cliffs and valleys.