The present site of the refuge was once a favorite hunting ground of the Blackfoot and other Native American tribes.
In the late 1800s, the area became part of a large livestock ranch operation. Later, the land was divided into smaller units and crops were cultivated for livestock feed.
About the same time, a wagon and stage road was established between the railhead at Corrine, Utah, across the Snake River Plain to Monida Pass on the Idaho-Montana border, and on to the gold fields in Montana.
A short segment of this wagon and stage road passed through what is now Camas Refuge. One of the many overnight stage stops was located at Sandhole Lake in the southeast corner of the refuge.
In the 1930s, crews from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed the refuge headquarters buildings, water control structures and bridges.
Before establishment of the refuge, one part of the marshland was used to raise muskrats for the fur industry; its present name, Rat Farm Pond, hints of its past.