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Possum Kingdom State Park

Swim, ski or just dive right in at this northeast Texas favorite.

By Elsa K. Simcik

“Possum Kingdom Lake is the prettiest lake in Texas,” says Jeff Nichols. Considering he’s been running the state park’s store and marina for the last 10 years, he might be a little biased. But one glance at the 19,000 acres of crystal clear waters and the towering cliffs makes it hard to argue with him.

It’s not just the scenery that’s been bringing folks here for generations; it’s also the opportunity to experience all types of water sports, including boating, skiing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, tubing, kayaking and fishing. During the spring and summer months, the lake is filled with boats, many of them congregating in the cove separated by two photogenic cliffs known as “Hell’s Gate.” Why such a daunting name for a place that’s known for endless celebrating?

Nichols fills us in on the legend: Back in the mid-1800s, long before the existence of Possum Kingdom Lake, two fur trappers stole mules and fur from a couple of local Indians. When the Indians found out, they chased after the men, catching one and scalping him immediately. The other man ran until he reached the edge of the cliff and announced, “I’d rather die in hell than be scalped by Indians,” before making the 180-foot jump to his death.

While things didn’t end well for the fur trapper at Hell’s Gate, lake and leisure lovers flock to the area, especially on the 4th of July for a fireworks show that’s so spectacular, Nichols gets starry-eyed just describing it.

Many of those visitors come from Dallas-Fort Worth — it’s an easy and picturesque drive — but Nichols says he also gets people from Houston, Austin, Lubbock and even from places where they don’t say “y’all,” like Switzerland. He says he often asks them, “What made you want to come to Possum Kingdom?” and they say, “It just sounded cool.”

In fact, it’s so cool that it’s one of the most popular places for scuba diving in Texas. Deep-water devotees come to the Scuba Point Dive Shop, a family-owned business that’s been a Possum Kingdom Lake staple for almost 50 years. In March, visibility is about 20 feet, and if the lake is at full capacity, divers can go down as far as 110 feet.

If you prefer to keep your head above water, Nichols has plenty of water-sport equipment for rent. You could camp at the state park along the shores of the lake (reservation information available on the TPWD Web site), walk to the park store and rent a ski boat with a wakeboard, skis, kneeboard and tube. Or you could take a more leisurely tour of the lake with one of his pontoon boats. If fishing is your water sport of choice, Nichols says you can expect to catch largemouth bass, sand bass and catfish.

Whatever you do on Possum Kingdom Lake, be sure to bring along a camera. The photo opps are infinite, especially at the site of our fur trapping friend’s demise.

For more information on water sports, call Possum Kingdom State Park’s store and marina at (940) 549-5612 or visit <www.tpwd.state.tx.us/possumkingdom>.

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