Artifacts found in the park indicate this area was occupied many times during the early and middle prehistoric periods. Natural resources like fish, fur and timber attracted native and Metis people to the Jarvis Creek valley.
There are two known burial grounds in and near the park that contain the graves of natives and Metis who once settled the area. Many of the old-style burial grounds include structures commonly referred to as "spirit houses". These wooden shelters often resemble small A-frame huts. The "houses" were meant to protect the remains of loved ones and items they might require in the next world. Some have crosses and fences representing Christian influence.
By the 1800s, this area was known as the Fish Lakes Valley.
This area became part of the Athabasca Forest Reserve in 1910, making the lands the responsibility of the Alberta Forest Service. Forest wardens patrolled the area on horseback. The meadows were cut for hay used as winter feed for their horses. Cabins, horse barns, trails, corrals and a wagon trail were constructed in the area and remnants are still visible in the park today.
There were two short-lived, unsuccessful beaver ranching projects along Jarvis Creek (north of Graveyard Lake) between 1946 and 1948. Allen Innes-Taylor and Stanley Knapp constructed large cement holding tanks to commercially raise beavers for their pelts, much like a mink farm. However, the beavers would not breed in the confines of their cement lodges. Both projects ended in financial disaster. Evidence of the beaver ranches can still be seen today, the largest of which is located adjacent to Beaver Ranch group use area.
Several features in William A. Switzer Provincial Park bear names honouring its early settlement history.
|Blue Lake||Named for the colour of the lake.|
|Cache Lake||A.H. Hawkins, Dominion Land Surveyor, ran the 13th, 14th and 15th baselines. He cached his supplies near the lake.|
|Kelley's Bathtub Day Use||Named after Mike Kelley who was a long-time resident, avid outdoorsman and trapper in the area. One story is that Kelley tipped his canoe and fell into the lake here.|
|Graveyard Lake||A native burial ground is located on the east side of the lake.|
|Gregg Lake||Named after J.J. (Jack) Gregg, formerly a scout with General Custer. He homesteaded near Hinton in 1895.|
|Jarvis Lake & Creek||Named after E.W. Jaris, a civil engineer with Canadian Pacific Railway.|
|William A Switzer||The namesake of the park when it was renamed in 1974. William A. Switzer was a Liberal MLA, the first mayor of Hinton and a long-time resident of the town.|