While Waterberg is known among tourists as a unique safari park, the plateau has played a prominent role in Namibian history.

In 1873 a Rhenish mission station was established at Waterberg, but it was destroyed in 1880 during the Herero-Nama wars. In 1904 it was the site of the decisive Battle of the Waterberg between German colonial forces and the Herero resistance. Due to superior weaponry and communications, the Germans prevailed and the remaining Herero were forced to flee east into the Kalahari. The final death blow was dealt by German soldiers, who were sent ahead to refuse the retreating Herero access to the region’s few waterholes.