Possum Kingdom Lake

Possum Kingdom Lake
LocationPalo Pinto / Stephens / Young counties, Texas
Coordinates32°52.00′N 98°26.00′W / 32.86667°N 98.43333°W / 32.86667; -98.43333Coordinates: 32°52.00′N 98°26.00′W / 32.86667°N 98.43333°W / 32.86667; -98.43333
Primary inflowsBrazos River
Primary outflowsBrazos River
Basin countriesUnited States
Surface area19,800 acres (8,000 ha)
Max. depth100 ft (30 m)
Water volume724,700 acre⋅ft (893,900 ML)
Shore length1310 miles (500 km)
Surface elevation998 ft (304 m)
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Possum Kingdom Lake (popularly known as P.K.), is a reservoir on the Brazos River located primarily in Palo Pinto County Texas. It was the first water supply reservoir constructed in the Brazos River basin.[1] The lake has an area of approximately 17,000 acres (6,900 ha) with 310 miles (500 km) of shoreline. It holds 750,000 acre feet (930,000,000 m3) of water with 550,000 acre feet (680,000,000 m3) available for water supply.[2]

Possum Kingdom Lake, after the devastating wildfires

The Lake was originally created from the Morris Sheppard Dam, which was a project of the Brazos River Authority and the Works Progress Administration. Construction was begun in 1936 and completed in 1941. The dam is 2,700 feet (820 m) long and 190 feet (58 m) high.[3] The construction is unique with buttressed arched wings on either side of the nine spillway gates rather than the usual filled concrete.[4] It has two 11,250 kilowatt generators which were used during peak demand periods that are no longer in use.[5] Morris Sheppard was in 1938 one of Texas' United States Senators. The dam was named for him in honor of his efforts in obtaining funding for the project.[6]

The lake is located where the Brazos River cuts through the Palo Pinto Hills.[7] The canyon thus formed provided a favorable site for impoundment of the reservoir and accounts for the unusual depth of the lake and the resulting clarity of the water.

There are several stories about the origin of the name Possum Kingdom for this part of the Brazos River valley. The most accepted version attributes the name to Ike Sablosky who settled in the region in the early twentieth century.[8] Sablosky was a businessman, a Russian Jewish immigrant who came to America at the age of 13. He arrived in Mineral Wells, Texas from Indianapolis in 1905. Sablosky was suffering from stomach trouble and believed he was dying. Mineral Wells was then nationally famous as a health spa and Sablosky offered an employee of one of the spa hotels ten cents a day for ten days to be allowed to drink all of the mineral water he wanted. The employee accepted and Sablosky claimed that within ten days his stomach problems were cured.

Sablosky then went into the fur and hide business, dealing in, among other things, possum pelts. His best suppliers of these hunted in the canyon of the Brazos and Sablosky began greeting them by saying, "Here are the boys from the Possum Kingdom." Sablosky went on to be a prominent businessman in Dallas. Before his death he left millions of dollars to charity.[9]

The lake is home to the famous Hell's Gate, a sheer break in the cliffs around the lake. The lake's name was the title of a popular 1990s song "Possum Kingdom" by The Toadies.[10]

The lake is home to Possum Kingdom State Park, a 1,530-acre (620 ha) state park governed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

The Possum Kingdom Lake area suffered major wildfires in 2011 during a severe drought, first in April with 160 homes destroyed[11] and again in August–September with 39 homes and 9 recreational vehicles lost.[12] The cause of the second 2011 fire was an electrical spark on the 101 Ranch[13] The first week of August 2012 brought more wildfires to the PK vicinity (between the dam & Graford) which were possibly ignited by lightning strikes amid the extremely drought-ridden countryside. Texas Governor Perry authorized the Texas military forces to assist in battling them. Several Chinook helicopters were assigned to the Palo Pinto county efforts.[14] The fires were brought under control over a period of days & nights.

The lake was originally at the level of the cliffs resort which caused the massive c shaped ridges in the side walls of the shore.


  1. ^ "Possum Kingdom Lake (Brazos River Basin)". Texas Water. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  2. ^ Brazos River Authority accessed online at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-25. Retrieved 2010-07-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Brazos River Authority accessed online at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-25. Retrieved 2010-07-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Possum Kingdom Reservoir from the Handbook of Texas Online
  5. ^ Brazos River Authority accessed online at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-25. Retrieved 2010-07-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "History of Morris Sheppard Dam and Possum Kingdom Lake". All Roads Lead to Possum Kingdom lake. Possum Kingdom lake Chamber of Commerce.
  7. ^ David R. Holland, Golf Texas, accessed online at http://www.golftexas.com/holland91.htm
  8. ^ Rocky Holland, Possum Kingdom State Park Superintendent quoted in Texas Highways Magazine accessed online at http://texashighways.com/travel/item/657-possum-kingdom-lake-forms-heart-of-north-texas-escape
  9. ^ Tolbert of Texas: the man and his work. Page 184, Frank X. Tolbert and Evelyn Oppenheimer, TCU Press, Fort Worth, 1986. Reprinting an article dated April 20, 1958.
  10. ^ Todd Lewis, Lead Singer of the Toadies, 1995 interview appearing in Rip Magazine according to SongFacts accessed online at http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=4014
  11. ^ Dallas News accessed online at http://www.dallasnews.com/news/state/headlines/20110831-firefighters-closer-to-containing-wildfire-near-possum-kingdom-lake.ece
  12. ^ Texas Forest Services as quoted by NASA accessed online at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=52028
  13. ^ CBS local affiliate report accessed online at http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/10/12/cause-of-2nd-possum-kingdom-lake-fire-determined/
  14. ^ Office of the Texas Governor accessed online at http://governor.state.tx.us/news/press-release/17529/

External links

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