Barcoo Shire, an area of 61,974 sq km, is midway between Charleville and Birdsville, generally 1000 km west of Maryborough. Its south-west boundary is Haddon Corner, on the border between South Australia and Queensland.
The shire's eastern part is drained by the Barcoo River, a watercourse charted by the New South Wales Surveyor General, Sir Thomas Mitchell, in 1846. He named it the Victoria, and supposed that it flowed to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Barcoo is a northern tributary of Cooper Creek, joining the creek near Windorah, the administrative centre of Barcoo Shire until 1939. The explorer Edmund Kennedy named the Cooper's upper tributary Barcoo in 1848, a name given to him by Aborigines. Kennedy also named another tributary, the Thomson, which joins the Cooper near Windorah.
Among the early pastoral occupiers of the Barcoo Shire's area was Richard Welford, who took up Welford Downs (1870) near Welford Lagoon and the Barcoo River. The property is now the Welford National Park (1992), and the rammed-earth homestead still stands, listed on the Queensland heritage register.
Windorah was gazetted as a town in 1880 and Jundah, 80 km northward up the Thomson, was gazetted in 1883. Each was connected by telegraph in 1884, a year before the Barcoo local government division was formed. A further 60 km north the settlement of Stonehenge was formed, reputedly named after a stone shelter which fell into disrepair.
Although Windorah was the first town in time it was Jundah which established the shire's first hospital (1902) after local fund-raising and secured a reserve for a race club. All towns have State primary schools (Windorah 1888, Jundah 1900, Stonehenge 1900).
The Cooper and its associated waterways are inland deltas known as the Channel Country. Flood times produce rich feed for fattening cattle. In 1993 the shire's livestock comprised 370,000 sheep and lambs and 148,000 cattle.
Jundah, Stonehenge and Windorah each have a hotel or a hotel-motel, and Jundah has a golf course, memorial park, swimming pool (1996), hospital and Church of England. Along with Windorah, Jundah also has a race course, local museum, shire hall (1917) and the shire offices.
Barcoo Shire's census populations have been:
Bill Bunbury, An enchanted inland: the story of the Windorah district south-west Queensland, the author, c2000