Contest highlights Kansas' natural wonders

Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area.
Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area. Courtesy Photo

Waterfalls, bubbling creeks and big hills in eastern Kansas fared better than any geographic wonders in the far western part of state when the Kansas Sampler Foundation's 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography were announced Thursday.

Among the winners was Pillsbury Crossing near Manhattan, Coronado Heights near Lindsborg, and the Gyp Hills Scenic Drive and Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway in Barber and Comanche counties.

The contest is one of a series that the Kansas Sampler Foundation is promoting. It allows people to pick their favorites things about Kansas, said Marci Penner, director of the foundation. More than 12,400 votes were cast.

Some obvious natural landmarks in western Kansas were not eligible for this contest because they were included in the overall 8 Wonders of Kansas, Penner said. Those places include Monument Rocks and Castle Rock in Gove County, and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms, Stafford and Barton counties.

"One of the things this tells me is that this is an opportunity for the people of western Kansas to tell their story," Penner said. "They have great natural places, and I don't think other Kansans know about these places very well."

Earlier contests focused on the overall 8 Wonders of Kansas and the top architecture, art, commerce, cuisine and customs of the state.

Only one other contest grabbed more votes — cuisine, with 13,863 votes.

The next contest is history, with nominations accepted throughout March.

The winners of the geography contest are:

Alcove Spring, Blue Rapids Chosen because of its historical significance as a stop for Indians, fur traders and emigrants on the Oregon Trail. Visitors can still see the wagon ruts, an intermittent waterfall and a long-flowing spring.

Coronado Heights, Lindsborg — Not only a historic landmark but a natural platform of Dakota Formation sandstone. It features a scenic overlook of the Smoky Hills and Smoky Hill River Valley.

Four-State Lookout, White Cloud — Offers a view of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa from a viewing platform. Views include glacial hills and the Missouri River.

Gyp Hills Scenic Drive and Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway, Barber and Comanche counties — Known for their stunning rust-red buttes and mesa capped by layers of sparkling white gypsum.

Konza Prairie, Manhattan — An internationally recognized research site for tallgrass prairie ecology. It has trails for public hiking through the Flint Hills.

Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, Canton — Known for its prairie and for being the only place in Kansas where buffalo and elk can be viewed in their natural habitat by the public.

Mushroom Rock State Park, Ellsworth County, and Rock City, Minneapolis — Showcases Dakota sandstone, deposited 100 million years ago and since exposed by the forces of erosion.

Pillsbury Crossing, near Manhattan — A flat, stone creek bottom that forms a natural ford and a long, broad waterfall that has been a landmark for generations.

The winners were selected from a nomination list that included: the Arikaree Breaks, Cheyenne County; Bartlett Arboretum, Belle Plaine; Big Basin Prairie Preserve, Clark County; Brenham Meteorites, near Haviland; Cimarron National Grassland, Morton County; Cross Timbers State Park, near Toronto; Elk River Hiking Trail, Montgomery County; Geographic Center of the Contiguous United States, Lebanon; Kaw Point Park, Kansas City; Lake Scott State Park, Scott County; Mined Lake Wildlife Area, Cherokee, Crawford and Labette counties; Mount Sunflower, Wallace County; Native Stone Scenic Byway, Wabaunsee and Shawnee counties; Post Rock Scenic Byway, Ellsworth, Lincoln and Russell counties; Schermerhorn Park, near Galena; and Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Hays.

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