Archaeological evidence shows that aboriginals had seasonal settlements near present-day Alex Fraser Bridge at Glenrose and St. Mungo's over 8,000 years ago. Other sites, on the west side of the Beach Grove golf course and along the shores of the Strait of Georgia, date back 4,000 years.
The land that would become Delta was first sighted by Europeans in 1791. Spanish explorer Lieutenant Francisco Eliza mistook the area for an island and named it Isla Capeda.
The present name - Delta - was given to the municipality in 1879.
The Gold Rush of 1858 and the creation of the Colony of British Columbia attracted settles to the land. The Ladner brothers, William Henry and Thomas Ellis of Cornwall, England, on their way to the gold fields, saw the potential for agriculture in the rich soils of the Fraser River delta and resolved to return. In 1868, they did and claimed land at the head of the Chilukthan Slough. In the north of Delta, James Kennedy had pre-empted acreage on the south bank of the Fraser near New Westminster in 1859.
Farming and fishing were the economic foundations of Delta. Salmon was first canned commercially on the Pacific coast near Annieville. In 1873, James Deas established a cannery at present-day Deas Island. In 1879, Ellis Ladner opened a cannery at the north end of Chilukthan Slough and later managed the Wellington Cannery near Westham Island.
As the population grew, incorporation - and its present name - were granted to Delta in 1879, and the community of Ladner was designated its administrative centre.