This prominent butte, perhaps the steepest hill in Wisconsin, was called La Roche-a-Cri by 17th and 18th century French voyageurs. Rising 300 feet above the surrounding plain, this landmark undoubtedly guided Indians and early pioneers. Indians of an undetermined cultural group left rock carvings, called petroglyphs, at places on Roche-a-Cri. Like many similar formations on Wisconsin's sandy Central Plain, this butte is composed of Cambrian sandstone about 500,000,000 years old. The flat plain is the old bed of Glacial Lake Wisconsin, which covered 1,800 square miles of central Wisconsin some 15,000 years ago. The buttes were islands in that immense lake.
The State Highway Commission purchased nearby land for a road-side park in 1937 and ten years later conveyed it to the Wisconsin Conservation Department. Roche-a-Cri State Park was established in 1948 and now contains over 400 acres. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.