Possum Kingdom Lake

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. The lake has an area of approximately with of shoreline. It holds of water with available for water supply. 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 long and high. The construction is unique with buttressed arched wings on either side of the nine spillway gates rather than the usual filled concrete. It has two 11,250 kilowatt generators which were used during peak demand periods that are no longer in use. 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. The lake is located where the Brazos River cuts through the Palo Pinto Hills. 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 nineteenth century. 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. 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. The lake is home to Possum Kingdom State Park, a 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 and again in August–September with 39 homes and 9 recreational vehicles lost. The cause of the second 2011 fire was an electrical spark on the 101 Ranch 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. The fires were brought under control over a period of days & nights.

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