In 1853, Daniel Burch built a grist mill on the eastern bank of the Weber River at the site of Riverdale. Settlers had been in the area for a few years already but the presence of the grist mill brought more of them. To deal with the housing "boom," Burch built a sawmill to process the cottonwood logs being cut out of the river bottoms. John Taylor, an LDS Apostle (and later President of the Church) bought the grist mill in 1858 and expanded it. Shortly thereafter Hugh Findlay built a factory to make matches, then came a blacksmith shop and a canning factory. The pioneers also dug a canal to irrigate croplands east of the river. They raised fruit, sugar beets, potatoes, vegetables, hay, beef and dairy cattle.

On the south side of Riverdale is Hill Air Force Base, a major local employer and contributor to the tax base.