Mitchell is situated on the banks on the Maranoa River. The economy relies heavily on agriculture, tourism, primary production such as cattle, sheep, cypress pine milling and a quarry with crops grown in the eastern part of the area. Mitchell was named after Sir Thomas Mitchell who camped on and named the Maranoa River on June 3, 1846 during an expedition to find an overland route from Sydney to the Gulf of Carpentaria. A memorial stands at the campsite, which is located approximately 40km north of Mitchell on the Forrestvale Road.
Before the arrival of Europeans, the Maranoa region was occupied by the Mandandanji and Gunggari Aboriginal peoples. Based on archaeological excavations in the Mount Moffatt area, it has been deduced that the Aboriginals had lived there for around 19,500 years. Descendants of the original peoples still live in and visit the area today.