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Large sinkhole draws curious to western Kansas

  • Associated Press
  • Published Tuesday, August 6, 2013, at 4:59 p.m.

— A sinkhole estimated to be about 90 feet deep in western Kansas is drawing so many onlookers that the landowner is pleading for people to stay away.

The sinkhole, which is 200 to 300 feet wide, was discovered last week in a pasture several miles north of Sharon Springs on land owned by 82-year-old Margaret Hoss and her family.

It occurred naturally and does not appear to be the result of groundwater depletion or oil or gas drilling, said Rex Buchanan, interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey.

After the sinkhole was publicized, people drove to see it, often ignoring signs to stay off the private pasture, which prompted the Hoss family to erect barricades this week. Hoss said she is concerned the traffic will damage fragile grass needed for cattle to forage.

“I’d appreciate some privacy. We’re not running a popularity contest,” said Hoss, who added that state and national media coverage of the sinkhole had made “our life a living hell out here.”

Wallace County Sheriff Larry Townsend said he was concerned the visitors could be endangered if the sinkhole suddenly grows.

“The soil tries to level itself. It’s kind of a dangerous place to be gawking around,” Townsend said.

Sinkholes occur when soil over an open void caves in. The voids are formed when underground water dissolves rock formations, “in this case probably limestone,” Buchanan said.

The hole has a steep face that over time will develop more of a “saucer shape,” Buchanan said. He also advises gawkers to not approach the sinkhole.

“The best thing you can do with these things is fence them off and walk away,” Buchanan said. “There’s nothing good about going down in that thing or getting close to it.”

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