The town was gazetted in 1975, but had been shown on maps as early as 1903. It is 114 m above sea level and is surrounded by the vast floodplains of the Fitzroy River. The current population in 2006 of the Fitzroy Crossing area is approximately 1500 people, about 60% of whom are Indigenous Australians. Cattle stations are the main economic occupation.
The Fitzroy River was first explored and named after Captain Robert Fitzroy (a former commander of the HMS Beagle) by Captain Stokes in 1838. However its upper reaches weren’t explored until Alexander Forrest travelled through the area in 1879. Forrest’s reports on the pastoral potential of the area resulted in Solomon Emanuel (a grazier and banker from Goulburn, NSW) founding the Gogo station 20 km downstream from the present day site of Fitzroy Crossing.
The local Aborigines resisted incursions from European pastoralists and the area around Fitzroy Crossing was the subject of some particularly bloody battles including one which resulted in the Aborigines retreating into Geikie Gorge followed by posses of police.
Like so many of the towns in the Kimberley, Fitzroy Crossing sprawls. Without an identifiable town centre, and with some kilometres separating the new highway from the old river crossing, the town is more like a series of loosely connected small settlements that a single community.
The Fitzroy Crossing region is full of interesting stories but there is perhaps none more ironic and telling that the battle over Noonkanbah Station southwest of the town. In 1979-80 local Aborigines gained control of the station but were almost immediately faced with a claim for mining rights on the property. They opposed a request by Amex to search for oil and the government, instead of respecting the rights of the new owners, brought police into the area to ensure a safe passage for drilling equipment. The issue was widely publicised as an example of the government’s refusal to respect Aboriginal lands. The result: Amex wasted a lot of money and the government were made to look very silly. The rigs found that there was no oil in the area.