The river was named after Dr Alexander Collie who, along with Lt. William Preston, was the first European explorer to find the river in 1829.
The Collie River Catchment is located in the south-west of Western Australia, it covers over 3,000 km² and includes the Wellington Reservoir. For Western Australia's growing population the reservoir is considered as a valuable resource but the water is too salty for drinking. The Waters and Rivers Commission has a target of reducing the salinity of the river water to 500 mg/L by 2015 as a part of the State Salinity Strategy. 
There are many tributaries of the Collie river including Collie River East, Collie River South, Bingham river, Brunswick River, Gervase river, Hamilton river, Harris river, Ironstone Gully, Silver Wattle Gully, Worsley River, Riches Gully and Mill Brook.