Blackwater is a rural town, 170 km west of Rockhampton. The name derives from the dark water found in local water holes, discoloured by decaying vegetation and black sand.
The Blackwater settlement began with the 1877 extension of the Great Western railway line from Rockhampton. A school was opened in the same year, and the town was gazetted in 1886. By the 1920s the population was about 80, and Pugh's directory recorded only the Blackwater Hotel and a coal mine operated by Mount Morgan Mines. The local Country Women's Association constructed a School of Arts in 1930, and in the 1950s cattle saleyards opened.
Coal sparked growth in the town. In 1967 the first of several open-cut coal mines began production south of Blackwater, followed by the Cook Colliery in 1970. Gregory and Oakey Creek mines north of Blackwater began in 1979, and the Curragh mine opened in 1983. Branch railway lines serve the mines, transporting coal to Hay Point (near Mackay) or to Gladstone. Blackwater became the dormitory town for mine workers and staff. A swimming pool, financed by Utah Mining, the Coal Board and the Education Department was opened in 1970. A State high school opened in 1973, and a cultural complex replaced the school of arts in 1978.
Blackwater has a central civic area with a shopping centre (1987), civic centre and courthouse. Its residential areas are to the north and west, with provision for residential growth on the east. There are sporting facilities, including golf and swimming. The railway station and a showground are south of the town. Blackwater has a local newspaper, a hospital, a high school (1973), two primary schools (1877, 1979), six churches, a regional council office, a workers' club and a community broadcasting station. The town has a Japanese garden, a display of mining equipment and a historical display distributed among its visitor information centre and the old railway station.
The Blackdown Tableland, a sandstone plateau 35 km south-east of Blackwater, has numerous waterfalls, rare endemic plant species and Aboriginal stencil paintings.
Construction work on an expansion to the aquatic centre was halted when the remains of an old cemetery and burial ground with over 370 bodies was discovered in 2013.
Blackwater's census populations have been:
Duaringa Shire, 100 year of local government, 1881-1981, Duaringa, Duaringa Shire Council, 1981