AOPA Pilot Magazine
August 2007 Volume 50 / Number 8
Possum Kingdom, Texas
Boating through the kingdom
Possum Kingdom Lake, with its towering cliffs along the Brazos River, is one of the few deepwater lakes in Texas, and therefore attracts owners of the biggest boats as well as those wanting a home or second home in a resort setting. Holidays and weekends the 65-mile-long reservoir draws campers and a party-minded crowd from the Dallas-Fort Worth area 75 miles to the east, and is a premier center for scuba training.
While several residential and resort communities have a foothold there, nightlife has yet to come. There's no transportation or fuel at the airport. No shopping centers, either, and few gas stations. But developer wars are starting and it may be that in 20 years you will recognize little of today's Possum Kingdom.
What to do
A way around the lack of transportation (there isn't even a phone at Possum Kingdom Airport) is to rent a boat from Naylor By the Water boat rentals. For one thing, it is next to the airport. For another, they will pick you up, take you and your boat to the lake, and pick you up afterward. That's all you need. Use it to see a natural harbor protected by two cliffs called Hell's Gate, because you can't get to it across private land.
Once on the water you can visit restaurants in coves on the western shore, or buy hamburgers to go from Scuba Point Dive Shop on the eastern shore. Scuba Point Dive Shop has tiny cabins on its parking lot and can put you up for a few days while you become a qualified diver, going all the way to 65 feet or more for certification tests. The Dive Shop has WaveRunner rentals.
Assuming you have transportation, reserve a camping site at Sandy Beach from the Brazos River Authority. The authority has completed new hiking and biking trails that start near Scuba Point Dive Shop, or hike 300 feet up Johnson's Peak.
The Cliffs Resort has a world-class golf course about eight miles from the airport but you must compete for a tee time with residents of this gated community. (Tell the guard you are there to eat. That seems to be the secret password.)
The local Chamber of Commerce has the inside scoop on what to do and is the best source of information, although a real estate company now claims to be the "information center."
Where to eat
The everyday, basic good food spot for the locals is Jackson's on Possum Kingdom one mile south of the airport. Some pilots walk there. The family-owned Pizza Pro also seems to attract the locals. The two best restaurants in the immediate Possum Kingdom area are operated by developers who realize without a place to eat and a place to stay, home buyers are not likely to visit. They are equally good so in no particular order, the first is The Cliffs Resort's Chaparral Grille next to the golf course. Look up from your plate for a 20-mile view of the lake 100 feet below the cliffs. If the staff is not busy, they might just pick you up at the airport, so call before you leave home.
The second is The Grille at Hill Country Harbor that, like The Cliffs, offers five-star food (not officially ranked, but it should be) and a relaxing outside patio dining area. If you are staying at the lodge, they will pick you up at the airport.
The favorite Sunday lunch for the locals is 16 miles to the north, seven miles south of Graham, Texas, at the Wildcatter Ranch, a resort with unique cabins and activities including horseback riding, canoeing, swimming, hiking, biking, archery, skeet shooting, and nature photography. On certain nights the man who heads the bar staff, and insists his name is Alley Cat, offers authentic Texas-style singing.
If you want to see authentic West Texas-a country unto its own and not entirely tamed as yet go to the "Best Steakhouse in Texas," The Steak Shed located 13 miles from Possum Kingdom in Graford, Texas. There, singer Johnnie Bitters will help his wife Sharon prepare and deliver the food, and then pick up his guitar and entertain you. Customers may park a horse van outside, and you may see a lady wearing spurs she earned in her rodeo days as a star cowgirl. Can you yodel? You are invited to join in.
Where to stay
The Chamber of Commerce can point you to lots of family-owned small motels and bed-and-breakfast operations, but there are no chain hotels or motels at Possum Kingdom yet. The two best, and they should be classified as luxury, are the 32-room lodge operated by Hill Country Harbor and the one operated by The Cliffs. Rooms at The Cliffs, at least the ones lakeside, have a breathtaking view of Possum Kingdom Lake. Hill Country Harbor offers functional wood-paneled rooms located in a marina where the parking lot has not yet been paved but will be soon. Check-in is at the restaurant front desk. Prices change so check the Web sites.
Understand that if you fly to Possum Kingdom Airport (F35) without a folding bike or scooter, and don't have a friend who has a car and lives there, you may be stuck. There are restrooms, but no phone, no food, no vending machines, no FBO, and, more important, no fuel.
You can try calling PK Concierge, which offers services from cleaning your house to giving you a ride, but recent my attempts reached only an answering machine.
If you want to visit the Wildcatter Ranch virtually a Texas historic museum it may be better to land at Graham Municipal (RPH) where you have a shot at getting a car from Bailey Tobor Ford if you call ahead (see AOPA's Airport Directory). Or the Wildcatter Ranch may pick you up at Graham Municipal, especially if you are staying overnight at the ranch.
The Possum Kingdom runway is 3,200 feet, soon to be lengthened to 3,500 feet by the Brazos River Authority. It is not unusual for the airport to have a 90-degree crosswind. There is paved parking for about 20 aircraft single-engine aircraft.