The formation got its name because of fears of ambush. It was actually about two miles west of the rocks where a wagon train was ambushed. Travelers in five wagons clashed with Shoshoni Indians from August 9 to August 12, 1862, resulting in 10 immigrant deaths. Col. Patrick Conner and his troops retaliated for this and other skirmishes in January 1863 by attacking a Shoshoni winter camp along the Bear River, killing as many as many as 490 men, women, and children. That event is known today as the Bear River Massacre. Though nearly lost to history, the National Park Service is now undergoing efforts to identify the exact Bear River Massacre site and tell that sad story.
The skirmish at Massacre Rocks, which has been a state park since 1969, is probably the last reason to stop there. The park does interpret the events that gave the place its name, but the placid river, myriad birds, and killer disc golf are more likely to attract visitors today.