In 1861 Burke and Wills, along with King and Gray, were the first Europeans to come into the area on their ill-fated expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Burke named the river 'Cloncurry' for his cousin, Lady Elizabeth Cloncurry of County Galway in Ireland.
In May 1867 Ernest Henry, honoured as the founder of the town and the vast mineral wealth of the district, came this way searching for grazing land. Instead he discovered copper. He named this the 'Great Australia'. The town was surveyed in 1876 and named after the river.
Over the years Cloncurry has been the focal point for many of Australia's greatest innovations. Cloncurry was involved with the beginnings of Qantas, and the original Qantas Hangar is still in use at the airport, where 'Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services' is still displayed about the hangar door.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service was founded in Cloncurry in 1928, now recognised the world over. The airport was also en route for early planes coming from overseas and a stopping place for contestants in the Great Air Races of 1919 and 1934. During the Second World War, Cloncurry was the site of a major United States of America air base.
The railway reached Cloncurry in 1907 and was officially opened in 1908, and remains an important industry in the town.
A visit to Cloncurry Unearthed Visitor Information Centre and Museum, or John Flynn Place Museum and Art Gallery will open the eye of any budding historian to the richness of Cloncurry's history.
Cloncurry is a rural town, which derives its main income from the mining and pastoral industries. The town itself is nestled on the banks of the Cloncurry River. The Cloncurry River catchment area begins in the Selwyn Ranges and flows into the Flinders River, where it continues on to empty into the Gulf of Carpentaria.