The Ottawa area was used for wild edible harvesting, hunting, fishing, trade, travel, and camps for over 6500 years by local populations. The Ottawa River valley has archaeological sites with arrow heads, pottery, and stone tools. The area has three major rivers that meet, which made it an important trade and travel area for thousands of years.
Étienne Brûlé, the first European to travel up the Ottawa River, passed by Ottawa in 1610 on his way to the Great Lakes.
Philemon Wright, a New Englander, created the first settlement in the area in 1800 on the north side of the river, across from Ottawa in Hull. He, with five other families and twenty-five labourers, created an agricultural community called Wrightsville.
Bytown, which was Ottawa's original name, was founded as a community in 1826 when hundreds of people were attracted to the south side of the river when news spread that British authorities were building the northerly end of the Rideau Canal military project at that location.
The military purpose of the canal was to provide a secure route between Montreal and Kingston on Lake Ontario, bypassing the stretch of the St. Lawrence River bordering New York state that left the British forces exposed to American enemy fire during the War of 1812. Bytown's population grew to 1,000 as the Rideau Canal was being completed in 1832. In 1855 Bytown was renamed Ottawa and incorporated as a city.
From the 1960s until the 1980s, the National Capital Region experienced a building boom. This was followed by large growth in the high-tech industry during the 1990s and 2000s. Ottawa became one of Canada's largest high tech cities and was nicknamed Silicon Valley North.
Ottawa's city limits had been increasing over the years, but it acquired the most territory on January 1, 2001, when it amalgamated all the municipalities of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton into one single city.