The Lake Metigoshe area was home to several Native American tribes, including the Blackfoot and Hidatsa, and later the Assiniboine and Chippewa. The lake takes its name from the Chippewa phrase, "metigoche washegum," or "clear lake surrounded by oak trees."
The history of Lake Metigoshe State Park can be found in the Great Depression of the 1930s, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" programs. Intended to provide economic relief to the nation's unemployed, the programs included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Public Works Administration.
In July of 1934, construction of a transient work camp began on a section of state-administered school land just east of Lake Metigoshe, funded with a grant by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Transient camps were used to house the thousands of unemployed left homeless by the Great Depression, providing shelter, food, clothing and medical care in exchange for work on nearby conservation projects.
The camps at Lake Metigoshe and one south of Bismarck were the two largest transient camps in North Dakota. Rustic-style log and masonry buildings were constructed on the site. The FERA program was dissolved in late 1935 and transient workers were sent to work on federal projects elsewhere in the state.
The park itself was formally established by the 25th North Dakota Legislative Assembly and approved by Governor William Langer on February 17, 1937. Roadwork, landscaping and additional improvements to the transient camp buildings were undertaken through a WPA project in 1938.
The original site of the transient camp is now occupied by the park's group complex, which includes two large dormitories, shower house, park offices and kitchen/dining hall. The kitchen/dining hall is the only transient camp building remaining at the park today.