The town of Happy Camp is located on State Route 96, about 70 miles west of Interstate 5 and 100 miles northeast of Willow Creek. The town of O'Brien, Oregon is accessible from Happy Camp (which is nearly 40 miles away). The shortest route to Oregon, over the Grey Back pass, is a seasonal summer road and is not cleared or maintained in snowy conditions. Check with the Ranger Station, located on SR 96, for road closure information.
Prior to 1851 - The area now occupied by Happy Camp is the ancestral homeland of the Karuk tribe. Karuk means "upriver people". Their cousins, the Yurok, are the "downriver people". There was a Karuk village on the banks of Indian Creek near the Klamath River.
1851 - a group of about thirty miners arrived to seek gold in the Klamath River Valley. According to Vera Toleman's history, published by the Siskiyou County Historical Society, "At a time of celebrating their survival of the hardships of the trip up the treacherous Klamath and of having found a spot where 'the pickings' seemed so promising, they named it 'Happy Camp'." They made their way up the Klamath River in the late spring or early summer from the Salmon River, southwest of Happy Camp, working the Klamath's gravel bars as they came.
1856 - By this year Henry Doolittle owned a home on the east bank of Indian Creek, a hotel, the American House, and a general merchandise business. The American House is probably the original name of the Cuddihy Hotel, which still exists as of 2002 on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Indian Creek Road.
1857 - James and Heil Camp and John Titus bought the buildings at Ferry Point, downriver, and started operating the ferry there. Later they moved to Happy Camp where they built the Camp Mercantile store, which still exists as of 2002.
1862 - Henry Doolittle appointed to be postmaster in Happy Camp and served in that office until 1870.
1865 - By this year the Camp Mercantile store had been built at the corner of Bridge and Main (now 2nd and Indian Creek Rd.) by James Camp, his brother, Heil Camp, and John Titus. They had purchased the lot from Henry Doolittle, whose American House hotel is still right across the street.
1866 - Henry Doolittle appointed to be Justice of the Peace and served in that office until 1870.
1872 - March - Henry Doolittle sold out his mining companies to the Happy Camp Hydraulic Mining Company. This sale included "water rights on Indian Creek, Elk Creek, Grider Creek, and Perkins Creek—the Keystone Ditch, the Empire Ditch, the Eureka Ditch, and the Hornback Ditch together with all dams belonging to said ditches—all gravel benches, and mining claims and mining ground covered by said ditches and creeks, together with all flumes, tunnels, improvements, pipes—a sawmill located in Happy Camp, with its lot and barn and adjoining lot, flume and dam belonging to said sawmill, two yoke of oxen, the butcher shop, corral and barn, also dwelling house and lot." Henry Doolittle left town after this sale and went to Washington state, according to his great-grandson, Richard Ramsey.
1875 - Staples Sawmill - 1/2 mile downriver on south side of Klamath River. Bought by James Camp Co.
1877 - Happy Camp Hydraulic Mining Company sold to Horace Gasquet. This included 298.92 acres.
1880 - Happy Camp Hydraulic Mining Company claims patented by Horace Gasquet, owner. This included Schoolhouse Flat (northeast of town) and the mine southwest of town (now at the Happy Camp Airport). The census for 1880 shows Happy Camp population 597 including 250 Chinese and 97 Karuks.
1883 - James Camp, Heil Camp, John Titus built a bridge over Indian Creek using steel and wood. The long irons were brought into Happy Camp by pack train.
1884 - Howard Gasquet sold Happy Camp Hydraulic Mining Company lands plus the Ferguson and Frazier patent (39.93 acres) to an eastern gentleman, excepting a strip of land on the east bank of Indian Creek. Bridge over Indian Creek built by James and Heil Camp and John Titus in 1883 sold to Del Norte County.
1885 - Happy Camp Hydraulic Mining Company purchased by Siskiyou Mining Company, a New York based firm. They operated the mine for ten years.
1890 - John Titus sold his interests to James Camp and moved to Fruitvale, California. Soon afterward James Camp gave up his 20 year job as postmaster in Happy Camp and sold his business interests to Horace Gasquet. Camp moved to Fort Jones where he had other business interests.
The town of Happy Camp is also known as the Gateway to the Marbles. There are many trailheads for this Wilderness Area within ten miles of the town. Check with the Ranger Station for trail information. The Marble Mountains cover thousands of acres, and contain almost a hundred lakes. Among the most interesting lakes are Spirit Lake, which contains a luminescent chemical and has been seen to "glow" in the dark; Ukonom Lake, which is very large and beautiful even though the area is recovering from fire damage; and the Green and Blue Granite Lakes, where trout swim in the cold and clear waters. Deer, bear, elk, and mountain lion are common in the Wilderness Area.
With the town situated at above 1000 feet in elevation and located at the merging of the Klamath River and Indian Creek, camping is one of the biggest summer tourism draws to the community. Commercial campsites are available at nearby Elk Creek Campground. Many public campgrounds can be found along State Highway 96, with many more located in remote and beautiful places like the nearby Marble Mountain Wilderness Area, Kelly Lake, Dillon Creek, and Greyback.
The Karuk Tribe is headquartered in Happy Camp.
In the state legislature Happy Camp is located in the 4th Senate District, represented by Republican Sam Aanestad, and in the 2nd Assembly District, represented by Republican Doug LaMalfa. Federally, Happy Camp is located in California's 2nd congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +13 and is represented by Republican Wally Herger.