Dryden is entirely surrounded by Unorganized Kenora District.
The settlement was founded as an agricultural community by John Dryden, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture in 1895. While his train was stopped at what was then known as Barclay Tank to re-water, he noticed clover growing and decided to found an experimental farm the following year. The farm’s success brought settlers from the Uxbridge area of southern Ontario and the Bruce Peninsula and the community came to be known as New Prospect. It became a town in 1910 and a city in 1998 after merging with the neighbouring township of Barclay. Dryden’s eastern boundary is located near Aaron Provincial Park on Thunder Lake.