Hell's Gate and Devil's Island at Possum Kingdom Lake

Hell’s Gate at Possum Kingdom Lake is the lake’s iconic landmark, and is known worldwide. Hell’s Gate is actually a narrow strait between Devil’s Island and the mainland on Possum Kingdom Lake. Devil’s Island is the focal point of local events, and Hell’s Gate is a popular hangout for boaters. 

Where Is Hell’s Gate?

Hell’s Gate is located on the southernmost arm of Possum Kingdom Lake.

You can access Hell’s Gate from land by Hell’s Gate Loop seven miles north of Brad, Texas, on SH 180 in Palo Pinto County. Possum Kingdom Lake is extremely serpentine in geography and winds around like a mountain road through all of its southern arms.

Here is a direct link to Hell's Gate on Google Maps.

Map of Hells Gate at PK

Hell’s Gate Geography

The convergence of the Brazos River and Jowell Creek carved out Hell's Gate and Devil's Island. The Brazos River channel cuts through Hell’s Gate. These two waterways cut a gap in the limestone formation where Hell’s Gate is located. Tall cliffs characterize Hell’s Gate on the mainland and Devil’s Island. 

How Tall Is Hell’s Gate? 

The cliffs are 90-feet tall surrounded by 26-feet deep water.

The area is loved for great boating, fishing, cruising and hanging out. The view of this Possum Kingdom landmark is breathtaking, stunning, and peaceful off-season, and a little bit loud and rowdy on summer weekends. 

How big is Devil’s Island?

Devil’s Island is a little over 1000 feet long, east to west, and about 500 feet wide, north to south at its widest point.

The eastern point of Devil’s Island begins at a low elevation and rises up to 90 feet high at its western point. The Jowell Creek river channel flows on the eastern point of Devil’s Island. The easiest way to visit Devil’s Island is by barge, canoe, kayak, paddle board, or pontoon boat. Devil’s Island does not have beaches, and its shoreline is extremely rocky. 

Hell’s Gate Party Cove

Hell’s Gate is the best party cove on Possum Kingdom Lake.

Boats gather in this area and tie up to each other. There could be up to 100 boats rafted together on a busy weekend. You get to meet a lot of people when you boat into the Hell’s Gate area. It is super busy during peak season. Hell’s Gate is not the place for peace and quiet during these times. People party until early in the morning hours at Hell’s Gate on boats. On the Fourth of July, boaters must get there early, or they won’t be able to get anywhere near Hell’s Gate on the water. 

Events at Hell’s Gate and Devil’s Island

The most well-known event at Hell’s Gate is the fireworks show on the Fourth of July every year. On July 4, 2021, the Hell’s Gate Fireworks Show on Devil’s Island celebrated its 34th anniversary. Visitors can see the best fireworks show in Texas on Devil’s Island by land or by boat. 

The Hell’s Gate Fireworks Show is paid for entirely by donations. The PKCC takes donations online, by phone, or mail to fund its Fourth of July event. Texas is prone to have burn bans during its hot, burning summers without rain. During burn bans, most fire marshals in Texas counties cancel fireworks shows in advance. The Hell’s Gate Fireworks Show continues even when there are burn bans in effect. 

YMCA Camp Grady Spruce on the mainland on the northern shore is straight north of Hell’s Gate, and opens to the public for the Hell’s Gate Fireworks Show. Camp Grady Spruce is two miles as the crow flies from Devil’s Island. On the Fourth of July holiday, Camp Grady Spruce offers bounce houses, games, food, face painting, a cardboard boat regatta, swimming, and rental cabins with Fourth of July package deals for several days or only the day of the fireworks show.

The Red Bull Cliff Diving Championship, which takes place all over the globe at famous natural cliffs, held their championship cliff diving competitions at Hell’s Gate for five years in their seasons from 2014 to 2018. Red Bull built a diving platform on the eastern cliff of Hell’s Gate, and championship divers dove, with their supporters from around the world gathered on Possum Kingdom Lake to watch the daring divers. 

Thousands of spectators also descended on Hell’s Gate in boats, kayaks, and paddle boards during the cliff diving challenges. Do not try to dive off of the cliffs at Hell’s Gate. It is illegal on Possum Kingdom Lake to dive off of cliffs higher than 20 feet. As you pass through Hell’s Gate, you enter a cove with beautiful sprawling homes looming over Hell's Gate’s amazing view. This cove is a no wake and no skiing zone, so please be polite. 

There are hiking trails on Devil’s Island. Every year, YMCA Camp Grady Spruce leads tons of children and teens through its trails so they can discover the flora, fauna, and history of Devil’s Island. Camp Grady Spruce’s well educated volunteers will happily inform anyone who is interested about the land formation and horizontal stratification of the rock formations on Devil’s Island. 

How Hell’s Gate Got Its Name: The Legend of Hell’s Gate

Long before Anglo settlers moved into Palo Pinto County in Texas, Comanche Indians dominated the region, but fur traders eventually saturated this region. We don’t have a date for this legend. Two fur traders were trekking down through the headwaters of the Brazos River with moonshine whiskey and baubles to trade with any friendly Indians that they might meet on their way for Indian fur pelts. 

It was raining one day and those fur traders came upon a Comanche camp. The Comanches were smoking buffalo and deer meat. The fur traders spent a few days bartering with the Comanches for the trinkets they were carrying and noticed some fine quality fur pelts in the Comanches’ possession. The fur traders thought this was a good time to offer the Comanche leaders some free samples of their whiskey. 

When the Comanche leaders passed out drunk, the two fur trading conmen stealthily stole the Comanche’s quality furs, loaded them on their burros, and headed south along the Brazos River. About five miles out, one of their burros broke its leg, and the other burro couldn’t carry the double load for long. Their third and now only burro, who was now packing some of the Comanche furs, fell down a canyon and died.

Those fur traders were now carrying their own heavy stolen furs. They realized the Comanches were going to wake up soberly soon, and realized that the two fur trading conmen had stolen their best quality furs. They knew the Comanches would surely follow their tracks, find them, and scalp them. The fur traders could see the Comanche’s smoke signals in the sky nearby.

Those fur thieves knew by this time that the Comanches were already close to catching them. They happened to be at a point on the Brazos River where two high limestone cliffs rose high into the sky and were separated by the river. One of the traders dropped his share of the fur pelts and climbed up one of the cliffs. 

The other trader said he would rather go through the gates of Hell before he relinquished the furs to the Comanches. The Comanches did find those two fur traders, launched a significant amount of arrows, thereby piercing their bodies, and killed them both. From that day forward, that point on the Brazos River was called Hell’s Gate. When Possum Kingdom Lake began impoundment in 1941, it created Devil’s Island. 

How Possum Kingdom Lake Got Its Name

Before Mineral Wells, Texas, was established, the region around Possum Kingdom Lake was well exploited by fur traders, and then fur trappers before the 1850s. The region surrounding Hell’s Gate is full of hills and valleys, limestone rock formations, rocky terrain, cactus, and post oak and cedar trees, which provides a luxurious habitat for the opossum species. 

Mineral Wells, Texas, was not established until 1877, but this town became world famous for its healing spring waters bubbling up from the ground or dribbling down rock formations in the early 1900s. One story goes that a fur trader referred to the fur trappers in Palo Pinto County as the "Boys of Possum Kingdom", a name associated with a specific bend on the Brazos River in the area. But, no one knows which bend that is. This story does not produce a date. 

Another story of how Possum Kingdom Lake came to be named revolves around a peddler who came to Mineral Wells in 1906 named Ike Sablosky. Ike came to regain his health by partaking in the healing waters of Mineral Wells. Ike then discovered how lucrative the fur and hide trading business was in the Palo Pinto Mountain range near Mineral Wells. It is said that Ike called his fur suppliers the "Boys of Possum Kingdom" after 1906. At this time, Possum Kingdom became the name for this entire region of the Brazos River, the Palo Pinto Mountain range, and everything in between. 

This Alternative Rock Song Made Possum Kingdom Lake Famous 

Way back in 1989, the Dallas/Ft. Worth based band, “The Toadies”, formed as an alternative rock genre group. Their best-known song is "Possum Kingdom", and its lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Vaden Todd Lewis, wrote the lyrics. The song’s lyrics are macabre, and paint a picture of a serial killer who lured a young lady into a walk around to a bathhouse on Possum Kingdom Lake, and murdered her. “The Toadies” released “Possum Kingdom” on their Rubberneck album in 1994. 

Around the mainland on Possum Kingdom Lake, at night, the shadows of mesquite and Ashe juniper trees turn shadowy and appear super spooky at night. In Lewis’s lyrics, the victim’s body was never found, and the killer was never captured. The lyrics leave fans wondering if the killer killed one woman or maybe more. “Possum Kingdom” was the breakout song of “The Toadies” and led to the band’s success of opening up for The Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

To this day, there are still myths about Lewis’s lyrics, and the song “Possum Kingdom” still hits alt-rock radio playlists. Lewis publicly commented, years later, after the song’s ride with continued success, that he made up the whole story, and he wove ambiguity into his lyrics on purpose. You can watch the official music video here.

Thanks to Peggy Gibson for the great photo of Hell's Gate!

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Possum Kingdom Lake Water Level (last 30 days)

Water Level on 6/18: 998.74 (-0.26)

Possum Kingdom Lake

Fishing Report from TPWD (Jun. 12)

GOOD. Water stained; 87 degrees; 0.19 above pool. Striper are fair to good on live bait, but some can be caught using artificial baits in 30-70 feet of water. Spoons are putting a few fish in the boat. Downriggers are not catching any fish at all. Good colors are white, chartreuse, and silver. Sand bass are fair with fish scattered in small groups. Look for them in 10-20 feet of water with live shad or small slabs and jigs white, and silver are good colors. Catfish are fair in 30-40 feet of water with cut shad. Water clarity is steady at 2-10 feet of visibility. The north end of the lake is still muddy but clearing up. Report by TJ Ranft, Ranft Guide Service. Largemouth bass are in 20-30 feet of water on ledges and points with crankbaits, Texas rigged worms, jigs and swimbaits. There is an early topwater bite. Report by JK Outdoors Bass Fishing Guide.

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