Cooper Landing was named for Joseph Cooper, a miner who discovered gold there in 1884. However, Peter Doroshin, a Russian engineer, had identified gold prospects as far back as 1848 when the territory was still part of Russian America.
Cooper Creek was first recorded in 1898 by the U.S. Geological Survey. In 1900, the Census found 21 miners and 1 wife living at Cooper Creek. The Riddiford Post Office began operations in 1924, and the Riddiford School opened in 1928.
In 1938, a road was constructed east to Seward. In 1948, a road west to Kenai was opened, and by 1951, residents could drive north to Anchorage. The Cooper Landing Community Club was first formed in 1949. The Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Facility was constructed in 1959-60.
In 1946, Pat and Helen Gwin arrived in Cooper Landing which had about 100 residents then. The Gwins eked out a living by operating a small packaged goods store out of a tent. That same year, construction began on the highway from Cooper Landing to Homer. The Sterling Highway, the road that is the artery of the Kenai Peninsula, opened in 1950, and subsequently the Seward Highway opened in 1951. Gwin's Lodge was built from spruce logs harvested from the surrounding Chugach National Forest. Cutting, hauling and hand-peeling the logs, Pat and Helen Gwin completed and opened the lodge on January 1, 1952. Pat and Helen parted ways in 1959, but Helen stayed to run the lodge and retired in 1976. The historic Gwin's Lodge is one of the oldest log roadhouses in Alaska and is still in operation today.