Officially incorporated on June 18, 1906, the city is named after the camas lily, a plant with an onion-like bulb prized by Native Americans. At the west end of downtown Camas is a large Georgia-Pacific paper mill from which the high school teams get their name, “the Papermakers”. A paper mill was first established in the city in 1883 with the support of Henry Pittock, a wealthy entrepreneur from England who had settled in Portland, Oregon, where he published The Oregonian.
Pittock’s LaCamas Colony bought 2,600 acres in 1883, forming the Columbia River Paper Company the following year to begin production in 1885, before merging with Oregon City’s Crown Paper Company to form Crown Columbia Paper in 1905. Converting from steam to electricity in 1913, it then merged with Willamette Paper in 1914 and then again in 1928 with Zellerbach Paper to become the largest paper company on the west coast, Crown Zellerbach. Changing from newsprint to toilet tissue in 1930, it temporarily produced shipyard parts during the Second World War. In 1950 it was the first factory to produce folded paper napkins. “Crown Z” was the area’s biggest employer in 1971, with 2,643 of approximately 3,700 Clark County paper-mill workers. Various other mergers took place until Georgia-Pacific’s mill was the sole property of Koch Industries. In 2018, Koch announced plans to lay off approximately 200–300 workers, shutting down all equipment related to communications paper, fine paper conversion, and pulping operations. There are plans to remove the paper mill entirely and recover the waterfront.
The city is about 20 miles (32 km) east of Portland. Historically, the commercial base of the city was almost solely the paper mill; however, the diversity of industries has been enhanced considerably in recent years by the influx of several white-collar, high-tech companies. These include Hewlett-Packard, Sharp Microelectronics, Linear Technology, WaferTech, and Underwriters Labs.
Annual events include the summer “Camas Days”, as well as other festivals and celebrations.
One of the major geographical features of the city is Prune Hill. Prune Hill is an extinct volcanic vent and is part of the Boring Lava Field of northwest Oregon and southwest Washington.