It was named after James Kelly an early explorer of the Tasmanian coastline.
The North Mount Lyell Railway close in the 1920s, and the former railway formation - known as 'Kelly Basin Road' was the land route to access the area.
In the 1990s following the failure of the Franklin Dam project to proceed - parts of the Kelly Basin and Bird River area became part of reserves associated with the western boundary of the new South West World Heritage Wilderness area.
- (1993) Kelly Basin-Bird River area site plan Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania
- Blainey, Geoffrey (2000). The Peaks of Lyell (6th ed.). Hobart: St. David's Park Publishing. ISBN 0-7246-2265-9.
- Rae, Lou (2001). The Abt Railway and Railways of the Lyell region. Sandy Bay: Lou Rae. ISBN 0-9592098-7-5.
- Whitham, Charles. Western Tasmania: A Land of Riches and Beauty.
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