Evidence of human cultures in this area goes back at least twelve thousand years, when Clovis-era people hunted mastodons and other creatures. Later American Indians processed salt from the mineral springs around the Mississippi River and Little Rock Creek.
In 1850, Theodore Kimm, a well-off merchant from St. Louis, moved to the area. When the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad was completed in 1858, Kimm saw an opportunity and platted the village the next year.
In less than ten years, the village attracted middle-class St. Louisans, most of them German immigrants, who opened stores, a brewery, mills, a copper shop, and greenhouses that sent fresh flowers up to St. Louis. The town eventually grew to include 1,500 residents. Kimm retired from town building in 1872 when he was sixty-one years old, and he and his wife traveled extensively, taking multiple trips to Europe.
In 1880, Montesano Springs Park opened and quickly became a popular destination for its mineral springs, dance pavilion, merry-go-round, tent shows, and other diversions. Visitors arrived by steamboat and train. It closed in 1918.
Kimmswick was a popular stop on the showboat circuit but as cars replaced steamboats and trains, retail moved to the highways and away from Kimmswick. As old buildings in town fell into disrepair, Lucianna Gladney-Ross used her wealth and influence (her father, Frank Gladney, was one of the founders of 7Up) to shepherd a movement to preserve what was left. In 1970, she began a determined and ultimately successful effort to buy and restore buildings in town.
Kimmswick survived a close call in 1993 when record flooding nearly inundated the town. The village stayed dry thanks to the work of thousands of volunteers and the National Guard who built a temporary levee to hold back the river.
In 2016, the new owners of the Delta Queen steamboat moved their corporate office to town. They hope to restore the 90-year-old steamboat and get it back on the Mississippi River for overnight cruising.
Kimmswick today retains its small town feel even as it has become surrounded by miles and miles of subdivisions.