The Amstel River (called after Aem-stelle, an old Dutch word for swampy area) is a canalised river on the border of Utrecht and North and South-Holland. The area alongside the river is called Amstelland.
Amsterdam has got its name from the Amstel when in the 13th century a dam was constructed in the river (under the contemporary Dam Square). The first time the name appears is in 1275 and Amsterdam got city rights around 1300.
In Medieval times the exploration of the peat area around the Amstel made it usable for agricultural uses. The oldest settlement is probably Ouderkerk, around two centuries older than Amsterdam.
Amsterdam grew to be the most important commercial city of Holland and for a short time of the world in the 17th century because of its position between North Sea and commerce on the Baltic and the river trade with Germany.
In March each year the most important long distance rowing regatta of the Netherlands, the Head of the River Amstel, is rowed from Amsterdam to Ouderkerk over a distance of 8 kilometers.