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Public to vote Kansas geography winners through Feb. 17

From the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks

-- The Kansas Sampler Foundation, a group formed to help preserve and sustain rural culture, has announced the finalists for its 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography contest.

The state's primary natural resource agency - the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) - boasts eight of the 24 finalists in the contest. A selection committee chose the 24 finalists from a list of 76 public nominations. The criteria were that the nomination had to do with nature, be pleasantly stunning in some perspective and be unique in Kansas.

The eight KDWP sites nominated include:

■ Big Basin Prairie Preserve, Clark County - It includes a mile-wide sinkhole, bison herd and a smaller sinkhole that is home to the legendary St. Jacob's Well, a deep, funnel-shaped spring said never to have gone dry.

■ Cross Timbers State Park at Toronto Reservoir, Woodson County -It contains one of the northernmost extensions of the Cross Timbers geographical region with oaks that date back to the early 1700s and rugged sandstone-capped hills.

■ Elk River Hiking Trail at Elk City Lake, Montgomery County -The 15-mile National Recreation Trail, on the edge of the Chautauqua Hills region, threads through boulders and rocky bluffs.
 
■ Lake Scott State Park, Scott County -Its role as an oasis in an otherwise semi-arid land and its craggy canyons provide relief on the high plains of western Kansas.

■ Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, McPherson County -Its mid-grass prairie is the only place in Kansas where both buffalo and elk can be viewed in their natural habitat.

■ Mined Land Wildlife Area, Cherokee, Crawford and Labette counties -Land, once strip-mined for coal, has been reclaimed for scenic woodlands, grasslands  and lakes.

■ Mushroom Rock State Park and Ellsworth County (co-finalist with Rock City, near Minneapolis) - Duo finalists showcase rare Dakota sandstone concretions up to 27 feet in diameter deposited 100 million years ago, since exposed by erosion.

■ Pillsbury Crossing, Riley County - The flat, stone creek bottom forms a natural ford, followed by a long, broad waterfall that has been a landmark for generations.

Public vote determines the top 8 Wonders of Kansas geography. Voting has started and continues until Feb. 17 at midnight. The public may vote for their top eight online at www.8wonders.org or by paper ballot. Paper ballots can be obtained by calling  (620) 585-2374. One email address may be used three times to vote.

The contest purpose is to educate and encourage travel in Kansas. Information about each finalist can be found by clicking on the picture of any finalist at www.8wonders.org. The geography contest is one in a series organized by the Inman-based Kansas Sampler Foundation.  After geography, the focus will be on history and people. The overall 8 Wonders of Kansas were announced on Kansas Day 2008. All results can be seen at www.8wonders.org.

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