Evidence of early humans is found in the Kruger National Park dating back as far as 1,500,000 BC. The San people also existed in the area as far back as 100,000 BC. In 200 AD the first Nguni speaking people, looking for more grazing land for their cattle, migrated south into the area and displaced the San. By 800 AD the Arabs started raiding the area for slaves, using the ports in Mozambique. A civilisation also sprang up in the northern regions of the park. They built the Thulamela Stone Citadel which was occupied between 1250–1700 AD. They also extracted iron ore from up to 200 mines, converting it into iron for trade.
The first known European to explore the now Kruger National Park area was Francois de Cuiper, who led a Dutch East India Company expedition from the Cape Colony in 1725. However, the expedition was attacked by local tribes-people near Gomondwane, and driven away.
Around 1838, Voortrekker expeditions led by Louis Trichardt and Hans van Rensburg explored the Lowveld and later wagon routes were established to and from the Kruger area.
Gold was first discovered in September 1873 at Pilgrim's Rest, and then in 1881 at Barberton. Fortune seekers rushed to the lowveld, the prospect of finding gold banished all fear of lions, crocodiles, and malaria. This started the dramatic decline of wild animals in the region, due to hunting and trading of animal horns and skins.
In 1895, Jakob Louis van Wyk introduced in the Volksraad (former Parliament) of the old South African Republic, a motion to create the game reserve which would become the Kruger National Park. That motion, introduced together with another Volksraad member by the name of R. K. Loveday, and accepted for discussion in September 1895 by a majority of one vote, resulted in the proclamation by Paul Kruger president of the Transvaal Republic, on March 26, 1898, of a “Government Wildlife Park.” This park would later be known as the Sabi Game Reserve and was expanded into the Kruger National Park in 1926.
In 1912, a railway line was routed through the reserve. Stevenson-Hamilton (a British major who became the first warden of the Kruger National Park) successfully used this to get tourists to stop over for lunch. By 1916 a government commission was appointed to assess the future of the reserves. In 1926, as an act of reconciliation, the British administration officially renamed the reserves after Paul Kruger, and declared it to be South Africa's first National Park.
In 1927, the park was opened to the public who where charged a £1 fee. After the proclamation of the Kruger National Park in 1926, the first three tourist cars entered the park in 1927, jumping to 180 cars in 1928 and 850 cars in 1929. Warden James Stevenson-Hamilton retired on the 30th April 1946, after 44 years as warden of the Kruger Park and its predecessor, the Sabi Game Reserve.Today the Kruger has over a million visitors per year.