The land which now comprises OVP was reclaimed from the sea with the creation of the southern part of Flevoland in 1968. It was originally zoned for heavy industry, but for some years no development took place.
The site was largely left to its own devices and a distinct, novel ecology emerged – part wetland and part dry ground, with much seasonal variation. Large flocks of greylag geese first occupied the site and their grazing prevented the growth of woody vegetation on the fertile soil. Curious about this grazing behaviour and what it might tell us about the paleoecology of Europe, the Dutch ecologist Frans Vera released small herds of horses, cattle and deer to let them go wild.
OVP was recognised for its abundant birdlife and was designated a State Natural Monument in 1986. In 1989, the area became subject to the European Bird directive. In 1996, the management of the site was transferred to Staatsbosbeheer – the Dutch statutory conservation agency. It is now a popular location for birdwatchers – attracting over 400 000 visits a year. Future plans seek the expansion of the site through the acquisition of a corridor of land that would link to nature areas further East. The resultant Oostvaarderswold would be 15 000 hectares and is due to be completed in 2014.