Originally settled in the 1830s, the first name of the community was "Rettie's Crossing," after local settler Alexander Rettie. The name Burnt River came to be after an unfortunate accident occurred in the 1920's when a gentleman drove his truck into the town gas station and severed the lines connected to the gasoline storage tank. The gasoline was almost immediately ignited, and flowed like a river, down the main street engulfing everything it touched in flames, until it poured into and spread across the fast-moving river. According to local legend, there were 18 miles of "Burnt River" stretching from there to Cameron Lake. Shortly after this, the Post Office changed its name to "Burnt River," and the former village of "Rettie's Bridge" to the north became known as "Kinmount".
Burnt River is a popular paddling and outdoor recreation destination in Kawartha Lakes with canoe routes stretching North into the Haliburton Highlands and the Victoria Rail Trail stretching throughout Kawartha Lakes.