'8 Wonders of Kansas’ winners unveiled at Kansas Day celebration

The votes have been counted, and two famous Kansas wetlands are now officially among the eight wonders of Kansas. More than 24,000 people voted in a contest sponsored by the Kansas Sampler Foundation, choosing eight winners from among 24 Kansas attractions nominated for the honor. The results were announced at Kansas Day celebrations in Topeka.

The Kansas wetlands complex of Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge were nominated as a single entity for the “8 Wonders of Kansas” campaign because of their vital and international importance as a migratory stop for North American shorebirds.

Cheyenne Bottoms – managed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks -- is a 41,000-acre lowland basin and is the largest fresh water marsh in the interior of the United States. It is considered the most important shorebird migration point in the western hemisphere. Each year this area attracts from 45 percent to 90 percent of the North American shorebird population during spring migration. At least 320 species of birds have been recorded. The area is a critical habitat for several threatened and endangered species such as whooping cranes, peregrine falcons, least terns, and piping plovers. Thousands of sandhill cranes stop here on their spring and fall migrations. Visitors can drive or walk along the dikes for some magnificent birdwatching.

Less than 20 miles away, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge comprises more than 22,000 acres of prairie grass, saltwater marshes, sand dunes, canals, dikes, and timber. During spring migration, Quivira is a staging area for more than 500,000 birds. Big and Little Salt Marshes are ancient basins that have attracted thousands of migratory waterfowl, providing them with food, cover, and a place to rest during exhausting flights between breeding and wintering areas. Quivira is managed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

One good way to see both of these places is to drive the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway. It curves around Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge for 76 miles. A good beginning point is K-4 and U.S. 281 near Hoisington. Go online to the Kansas Scenic Byways website for more information and directions.

“We’ve had packets of paper ballots sent from churches, nursing homes, and schools,” said Marci Penner, Kansas Sampler Foundation director. “We’ve also had votes from just about every state in the U.S. Some people send personal notes on why they love Kansas. It’s just a wonderful project to stir up Kansas pride.”

In addition to Cheyenne Bottoms/Quivira, the eight wonders winners include include:

  • Big Well, Greensburg;
  • Eisenhower Museum and Library, Abilene;
  • Kansas Cosmosphere, Hutchinson;
  • Kansas Underground Salt Museum, Hutchinson;
  • Monument Rocks/Castle Rock, Gove County;
  • St. Fidelis Catholic Church, Victoria; and
  • Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Chase County.

Starting March 1, the Kansas Sampler Foundation will continue the project to find the top 8 Wonders for each of the Foundation's rural culture elements of architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, and people.