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Park Pick: Playing Possum

After a rough 2011, Possum Kingdom’s back and better than ever.

By Rob McCorkle

The demise of Possum Kingdom State Park in the wake of raging wildfires in spring 2011 has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, the lakeside park that lies within easy striking distance of Dallas-Fort Worth and Abilene denizens looking for a bucolic retreat has bounced back admirably.

This year’s rains have filled picturesque Possum Kingdom Lake almost to the brim, making it once again an enticing destination for urbanites seeking a place to camp, hike and cool off in this hilly, far northwest corner of Palo Pinto County. Once you get past the park entrance, where blackened earth and vegetation dominate the landscape, a recovering ecosystem beckons to outdoor enthusiasts.

The Hell's Gate area at Possum Kingdom.

“Everything is greening up. We are welcoming back campers and have the ability to show them a good time with all of our campsite facilities back up and running, and all but one cabin hosting park visitors,” says Rocky Holland, park superintendent. “We’ve been clearing burned debris from our roads and campsites, but otherwise are letting Mother Nature take its course.”

Holland notes that one benefit of the wildfires that hit Possum Kingdom in April 2011 is the discovery of several old pathways that were overgrown and forgotten. Hikers can now enjoy two new hiking trails that add another half-mile to the almost 2-mile trail system. In addition, there’s good news for sufferers of cedar fever — many of the park’s mountain junipers succumbed to the flames.

Last year, the dry, sweltering summer caused the lake level to drop more than 11 feet, but this year has brought winter and spring rains that have returned 15,000-acre Possum Kingdom reservoir to almost-normal levels. That’s more good news for state park visitors, who easily can access the lake for swimming, boating and fishing.

“Possum Kingdom Lake is a beautiful lake and one of the premier water-skiing destinations in this part of the state,” Holland points out. “It’s crystal clear, and the fishing has been quite good.”

Possum Kingdom State Park encompasses just over 1,500 acres in the Palo Pinto Mountains in Palo Pinto County. First-time visitors to the area will be amazed to discover the mini-mountain range with its sandstone outcroppings, limestone bluffs and several peaks rising more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding prairie.

Some come for a daytime visit to swim and enjoy a lunch in the lakeside picnic area, while others opt to spend a weekend or week in one of four campgrounds or one of six comfortable, air-conditioned cabins that offer a lake view. One six-person cabin remains out of commission awaiting replacement of the fire-scorched roof.

Choose from among 55 water-only campsites, 40 water-and-electric sites and 21 premium lakeside water-and-electric sites spread among four different camping areas. Be sure to bring your own drinking water; the park’s water is nonpotable because of a high salt content.

If you forget your bottled water or other camping supplies, no worries. Jeff and Lisa Nichols will sell you what you need at their generously stocked Possum Kingdom State Park Store and Marina. You also can rent a variety of watercraft — from jet skis to a 22-foot pontoon boat — by the day or half-day.

Do yourself a favor this summer and visit this oasis built as the Civilian Conservation Corps’ final Texas state park construction project more than 60 years ago.

For more information, call (940) 549-1803 or visit www.texasstateparks.org.

 

 


Related stories

Photo Essay: Historic Drought, Explosive Wildfires Sear Texas

Deep Down Texas: Where to Dive

Park Pick: Possum Kingdom

See more state parks articles on our State Parks page


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