About the Refuge

winter at Camas Headquarters

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the area now know as Camas National Wildlife Refuge was never inhabited on a permanent basis by man.  Members of several native tribes passed through the area on a regular basis, and sometimes camped for short periods of time to hunt and gather foods.  The Bannocks, who were found to the south and west of the area, were the most frequent travelers as they went to the meadows near present day Kilgore, ID (northeast of the refuge) to gather the roots of Camas, a staple in the diets of many native tribes in the Northwest.

In the late 1800s, a large portion of the present day refuge became part of a large livestock ranch known as Idaho Livestock Lands, Inc. Other smaller parcels were homesteaded by families who later sold these tract to the government to become part of Camas NWR.  


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.

The refuge was established in 1937 to manage habitat to benefit nesting waterfowl, and to provide resting and feeding habitat for spring and fall migration pf ducks, geese, and other waterfowl. 

In the 1930s and early 1940s, 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.