Julia Creek, a rural town of over 500 people, is 550 km west of Townsville and 250 km east of Mount Isa.
The Julia Creek watercourse flows north-westerly via the town into the Cloncurry River. The naming of the creek is unclear, a popular version being that it was named after a 15 year old actress, Julia Matthews, to whom Robert O'Hara Burke proposed marriage shortly before departure on his ill-fated expedition in 1861. (Julia's mother, who was in control of her daughter's financial affairs, thought that Burke was an inadequate match.) Burke's connection with the creek is unlikely, as most accounts put the explorer's route at least 50 km west of the junction of the creek and the Cloncurry River. Another version is that Julia was the niece of the explorer/pastoralist, Donald McIntyre, who held the Dalgonally pastoral station on Julia Creek. McIntyre's brother by adoption, Duncan, formed an exploration depot at Dalgonally in 1865 when starting an expedition to find the remains of Leichhardt. The McIntyre version is more plausible, if there was a niece.
Julia Creek began as a Cobb and Co coach exchange, with a rudimentary pub and a dam. In 1907 the railway was extended from Hughenden to the Cloncurry copper mines, via Julia Creek. From that time Julia Creek began to supplant McKinlay as the main centre of the McKinlay Shire, which was confirmed in 1932 when the shire offices were moved there. By 1925 Pugh's Queensland directory recorded Julia Creek as having a hotel, a wool scour, two motor garages, two saddlers, an iceworks and three general storekeepers. There was also a primary school (1911), and an open air picture show (1924) which was moved to a dance hall in 1930. A school of arts (c1920) was blown down by a storm in 1939.
Situated in sheep grazing country, Julia Creek had a wool scour (1922-55) which operated 24 hours a day during peak periods. Town facilities were improved with reticulated electricity (1952) and sewering (1960s), and a convent school with boarding facilities (1955-95). That period coincided with Julia Creek's highest population, but most infrastructure has been retained despite the loss of population during the 1970s-90s. In 1991 a dunnart (a small carnivorous marsupial), thought to be extinct, was rediscovered at Julia Creek.
Julia Creek's hospital (1939) was converted to a medical centre in 2004, and there are a racecourse (1924), a swimming pool, a State primary-secondary school, a museum, the Great Artesian Interpretation Centre, Anglican and Catholic churches, the McKinlay Shire offices, two hotels and two motels. The town's census populations have been:
Julia Creek State School 75th jubilee - 1911-1986, Julia Creek, Julia Creek State School Jubilee Committee, 1986