Utajärvi has been inhabited already during the stone age. The lapplanders resided in the area before the people who came from the south during the 16th century. As a relic they have left several names of areas in the local vocabulary for example Utajärvi and Rokua. In the beginning most of the settlements were by the river. The official founding year of the municipality is 1865.
Currently there are about 3000 residents. The population reached its peak during the 1940s and 1950s when Oulujoki was being tamed and a lot of power plant builders lived in the area. Year 1954 the government ruled a piece of Utajärvi by the river to be attached to the newly formed municipality of Vaala.
During the old times Oulujoki river that goes through the municipality of Utajärvi was an important passageway for travellers, tar and other merchandise. It was also source of food and offered livelihood to ‘rafters’ profession. The river was tamed during the 1940s and 1950s. Even today Oulujoki river is graceful and noble river that offers possibilities for fishing and many recreational usages. Kiiminkijoki at the northern part of the municipality on the other hand still roams free with its rapids.
Until the second World War, Utajärvi was mainly a farming municipality. After Oulujoki river was damned the source of livelihood changed and nowadays over half of the residents earn their living mainly in service professions.