Possum Kingdom Lake is located on the Brazos River, about 75- miles south of Wichita Falls.
There is no better way to beat the dog days of summer than in the deep waters of beautiful Possum Kingdom.
For a few weeks in April, though, fun and care- free living was replaced by painful disappointment, during mandatory evacuations under flame and smoke- filled skies.
Kevin Vanduser/Author, Possum Kingdom Journal: "We see fires all the time. I fought fires on Johnson's Peek, as a scout, and people come out and leave camp fires. But, this was so... all the way around us... it was like several fires joined together. And, it was appalling."
By the time the damage was done, more than 160- homes were lost, as well as at least 2- dozen docks, and a few churches.
Not lost to flames, though, this lake's massive appeal, and the desire to quickly rebuild.
Daniel Carroll/Wichita Falls Resident: "The lake's got to be enjoyed. Even though the fires ruined a lot of the land, the lake's got to be enjoyed.. still. Right? Am i right?"
Austin Godfrey/Wichita Falls Resident: "We have our house right there. It's a tent. But, we're coming back. We'll be back. We're rebuilding in the same spot. And, it's going to be fine."
Coleman Crook/Naylor by the Water: "You know, even if they don't have a home, like we saw back there, people are pitching tents or renting cabins. It doesn't matter. People just want to come out to the lake."
Vanduser: "We have the plagues of P.K. like anybody does. We have floods followed by droughts, followed by golden algae, followed by you name it. Things happen here. The P.K. wildfires was the latest. But, people come together and they work out pretty well."
And, Vanduser should know, after first coming to P.K. in 1961 as a tenderfoot Boy Scout.
Vanduser knows this lake's history, that began with the construction of Morris Sheppard Dam between 1939 and '41, and the flooding of a little town called Pickwick.
Vanduser: "Yeah, that was the big town. People on the west side of the lake had to come to Pickwick to get their mail.. at an old place called Randal's Store. And, there was an old bridge across the river. And, it's under water. And, the old bridge under water has collapsed now. But, when the lake's low, you can see the ruins and the footings of some of the old rock buildings."
Vanduser says it was thought by the experts Possum Kingdom wouldn't fill up for years.
But, after only a couple of gigantic rain showers, it did. And, the fun was underway.
Vanduser: "There's horseback riding. You can hunt, fish, camp, hike.It offers everything a lake has. The difference is, there's still deep water where you can ski and scuba dive."
Reporter: "So, from jet skiing, boating, snorkeling, skiing, you name it. You can do it here at Possum Kingdom. But, P.K. has always been known for, and will forever be known, for Hell's Gate."
Crook: "My favorite part, most likely would be Hell's Gate. It's the hot spot to be on the lake. Memorial weekend, July 4th, that's where everybody likes to go. And, it's very pretty down there."
Beautiful indeed, as is all of Possum Kingdom's almost 18- thousand acres.
Breathtaking views of 100- foot cliffs that rest high above waters as deep as 145- feet.
And, one incredibly impressive dam, found right here in Texoma, that to this day controls flooding down the Brazos.
These things too must explain why lake cabins from decades ago are replaced now by major new developments, and a reluctance by so many to even try and stay away.
Vanduser: "We used to keep it a secret. But the secret's out. The secret's out about Possum Kingdom."
And, just like their new slogan says, P.K. is ok.
A salesman in poor health, who came to Mineral Wells for its mineral baths in the early 1900's, is credited with naming the area.
He'd trade hides, and he'd say his best hunters came from northwest Palo Pinto county.
He'd call those suppliers, "the boys from Possum Kingdom".
Hell's gate is said to have been named when a fur trader jumped from the cliff, 200- feet down, in the early 1800's, to get away from Comanches.
The legend has him swearing as he jumped, he'd rather go through the gates of hell, than return the furs they'd stolen from drunken indians.
For more information, just call the Possum Kingdom Lake Office at 940-779-2321.
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