Staff reports

POSSUM KIMNGDOM – For mountain bikers in Texas, finding an accessible and enjoyable yet challenging route can be a little bit like the quest for the holy grail.

A new trail at Possum Kingdom Lake will soon offer area mountain bikers and hikers with a new challenge at Possum Kingdom Lake. Shortly after Memorial Day, the Brazos River Authority will open an additional five miles of the Possum Kingdom Lake Hike and Bike Trails.

The BRA hike and bike trail system winds through the hills and valleys along the peaks of the peninsula. This third phase will expand the trail system to 16 miles and will link five of the Authority’s 10 parks via the trail system. The first five-mile phase was opened in 2007 with Phase II opening in 2009.

“The great feature of the trail system is that you can enjoy as little or as much as you like,” said Ken Hyde, the Authority’s PK Lake chief of lake development. “With numerous trailheads located throughout the system, you can get on the trail at Scenic Cove and go all the way to Sandy Beach – or just to the next trail head. It’s a great hike.“

The trail system, with a five-foot wide natural surface, was built with grant funds from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and matching funds through the Authority.

“Most of the trails average no more than a gentle 5- to 12-degree slope, designed to make it easy for mom and pop to walk," Hyde said. Other sections, such as the portion that rises high above the lake to Johnson Peak, have more challenging slopes of up to 20 degrees. Challenging mountain bike trails wind throughout the system, providing the best of both worlds including areas to rest.

Throughout the trail system, rest areas with cedar benches have been constructed at scenic overlooks; many named for Texas universities. With titles such as “Longhorn,” “Raider” and “Aggie,” the rest areas feature display signs with information about history, geology and animals of the area.

One of the most beautiful of such spots is the rest area atop Johnson Peak. Those reaching the summit get a view of most of the lake, including the landmark Hell’s Gate.

Golden Cheeked Warblers are among the inhabitants one might see on the trails. This is the only migratory bird that nests solely in Texas, relying on the county's juniper forests.

Hyde cautions visitors to not stray from the designated trails, to avoid damaging the surrounding plants and to avoid a possible encounter squirrels and rabbits make this area their home. It is also a habitat for rattlesnakes, copperheads and occasional sightings of bobcats.

Signage and maps at the trailheads, are intended to help keep visitors on the right path. In addition, the BRA has installed water fountains and restrooms at various trailheads.

As part of the project, the authority took the opportunity to rehabilitate a number of less scenic areas. An old airstrip and an abandoned gas drilling site have been returned to their natural state as part of the system.

In addition to the expansion of the Hike and Bike Trail, restroom and shower facilities that are handicapped-accessible were installed at the Sandy Beach and North D&D public areas. Accessible restrooms are also available at the main trailhead and South D&D.

The BRA has added camping sites and shelters with grills and fire rings throughout the parks and recently opened two new children’s playgrounds at Sandy Beach and North D&D public areas.

BRA parks at PK Lake are open to the public year-round. For additional information, visit http://www.brazos.org/newsletter/PrinterNewsletter.asp?ID=Summer_2010_Pk-Nature or contact the public information office at 1-888-922-6272.

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