Grand Canyon National Park Quarter
Released Sept. 20, 2010, the Grand Canyon National Park Quarter is the fourth in the America the Beautiful series.
Following up on the wildly popular state quarters program, the U.S. Mint will circulate a new national park quarter approximately every 10 weeks for 11 years, for a total of 56 (one for each state, U.S. territory and the District of Columbia). See which park in your state will be commemorated.
Arizona: Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon
What, you haven't seen the Grand Canyon?
With 4.4 million visitors in 2007, Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park is the nation's second-most visited park. It's also generally included in every list of 7 Natural Wonders of the World, often as the only U.S. site.
You could have seen a zillion photos of the canyon, and it will still make your jaw drop to see it in person. Millions of years of geologic history are laid bare by the Colorado River, the colors are breathtaking and shift with the angle of the sun, and the hiking or white-water rafting experience is second-to-none.
President Theodore Roosevelt preserved the Grand Canyon as a national monument in 1908, and it was designated a national park 11 years later.
If you want to see the more remote North Rim, visit between late May and early October, before heavy snows close the roads. Most people stick to the more easily accessible South Rim, and they don't regret it.
Also, see why The Grand Canyon is one of 8 endangered national parks.
Hot Springs National Park Quarter
Hot Springs National Park
Preserved by an act of President Andrew Jackson (not exactly our most eco-friendly president) in 1832, the Hot Springs in Arkansas (pictured at right) is the oldest part of what is now the National Parks system. As such, it will be the first quarter minted in the new program. (Though you may not have heard of it, it is not among the least-visited national parks.) The hot springs themselves are fueled by thermal heat a mile below the surface, and for generations a traditional bath (which you can still enjoy) was believed to offer a health boost.
Yellowstone National Park Quarter
Its geysers, its free-roaming bison and grizzly bears and its name made Yellowstone National Park the nation's fourth-most popular, with nearly 3.2 million visitors in 2007.
Old Faithful itself is so popular, the roads leading to it can get jammed up with cars. Even in 1915, more than 1,000 cars visited the park. About the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, the park is plenty big enough to lose yourself in, if you're looking for a wilderness experience.
Established in 1872 in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, Yellowstone was America's first national park, dedicated by President Ulysses S. Grant.
Many of the parks roads close in the fall and winter, so spring and summer are the best times to visit for all but snow enthusiasts. Old Faithful spouts -- reliably -- all year long, but you can't reach it by road until mid-April from one side, or mid-May from another.
Yosemite National Park Quarter
California: Yosemite National Park
The California state quarter already features Yosemite National Park, and the spiritual father of the National Parks System, John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club. (Read more about Muir and other key figures in the establishment of our national parks.) Yosemite National Park will have its own quarter as part of the U.S. Mint's plan to unveil new commemorative quarters in 2010.
At 1,200 square miles, Yosemite National Park approaches the size of Rhode Island. More than 3.5 million people visited in 2007, making it the third-most visited park in the United States.
Its fierce granite cliffs make it a world-renowned destination for rock climbers, but Yosemite's giant sequoia groves and scenery make it popular with hikers, bikers, families who stay in the car, photographers, wildlife watchers.... Virtually everyone can find something to love in this vast expanse of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The central California park was the third designated in the U.S., in 1890, but its preservation traces its origins back to Abraham Lincoln, who signed a law guaranteeing the land's protection in 1864 -- a foundational swipe of the pen that led to the establishment, decades later, of a national parks system. The great naturalist John Muir popularized Yosemite.
Yosemite is best known for its stunning waterfalls, and to appreciate them the best time to visit is late May, when mountain snowmelt keeps them flowing. Visitors at other times of the year won't be disappointed, however.
Oregon: Crater Lake National Park
The Oregon state quarter features Crater Lake National Park, a water-filled collapsed volcano that is stunningly beautiful.
Oregon's Mt. Hood National Forest will also be featured on an upcoming coin, when it becomes the first national forest minted in the new America the Beautiful series. Crater Lake National Park has a rhapsodic description on the National Parks Service Website: "No place else on earth combines a deep, pure lake, so blue in color; sheer surrounding cliffs, almost 2,000 feet high; two picturesque islands; and a violent volcanic past. It is a place of immeasurable beauty, and an outstanding outdoor laboratory and classroom."
The deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,943 feet, and the seventh-deepest in the world, it sits in a caldera -- the remnants of a volcano that once smoldered in the Cascade Mountain Range.
Oregon: Mt. Hood National Forest
Mt. Hood National Forest will be commemorated with its own coin in November 2010. The forest, which is greater than 1 million acres, is located just 20 miles from Portland, Ore., making it a popular destination for hikers, cross-country skiers and other adventurers.
New York: Statue of Liberty National Monument
The New York state quarter features the Statue of Liberty National Monument, a universal symbol of freedom sitting in New York Harbor.
The statue (her full name is "Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World") was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is located on a 12-acre island. Dedicated on October 28, 1886, the statue was designated as a National Monument in 1924 and restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986.
Closed for nearly eight years following the 9/11 attacks on New York, the Statue of Liberty re-opened for visitors on July 4, 2009.
Nebraska: Chimney Rock National Historic Site
The Nebraska state quarter features Chimney Rock National Historic Site, which is not only an iconic feature of the American West, but a symbol of westward expansion along the Oregon Trail.
The rock has "come to symbolize the greatest voluntary migration in the history of mankind," as the National Parks Service puts it. Though it's a national historic site, the monument is administered and operated by the Nebraska State Historical Society.
North Dakota: Badlands National Park
The North Dakota state quarter features Badlands National Park, a 244,000-acre expanse of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires.
As impressive for the life that lives there now -- bison, bighorn sheep, endangered black-footed ferrets, and swift foxes on the grass prairies -- as the life that died there millions of years ago, the Badlands are a striking assemblage of natural grandeur. The park has the world's richest fossil beds dating to the Oligocene, 37-28 million years ago, and the fossils there tell the evolutionary story of several charismatic species, like the horse and the rhinocerous.
Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park
The Colorado state quarter features the Rocky Mountains, which include Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the most visited national parks in the U.S. The original acreage of the park was designated in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson (one of the greenest presidents in U.S. history), and the park now stands at 416 square miles.
South Dakota: Mount Rushmore
The South Dakota state quarter features Mount Rushmore National Memorial, featuring the carved faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt (the grandfather of the national parks) and Abraham Lincoln (whose own laudable environmental legacy is overshadowed by his Civil War leadership).
Some iconic American landscapes are born, and others are made.
Guzon Borglum, who carved the monumental sculpture, said: "A monument's dimensions should be determined by the importance to civilization of the events commemorated. We are not here trying to carve an epic, portray a moonlight scene, or write a sonnet; neither are we dealing with mystery or tragedy, but rather the constructive and dramatic moments or crises in our amazing history."
Missouri: The Gateway Arch
The Missouri state quarter features the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, which is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, managed by the National Park Service.
Besides standing as an iconic American structure, the Gateway Arch is a symbol of the country's westward expansion in the 19th century, to President Thomas Jefferson's role in supporting that expansion and to Dred Scott, a slave whose lawsuit seeking freedom in a St. Louis court wound up at the Supreme Court in 1857, where it is remembered as a pivotal (and shameful) decision that promoted the continuance of slavery.
Michigan: The Great Lakes
The Michigan state quarter features the Great Lakes. While the Great Lakes themselves are not national parks, there are nine National Park properties managed by the National Parks Service in the Great Lakes region, including three in Michigan:
- Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, which includes 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland on Lake Superior in Wisconsin.
- Grand Portage National Monument in Minnesota, which features the histories of native American tribes as well as the people involved in the North American fur trade.
- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which offers beautiful views of Lake Michigan and its wildlife from the Indiana shore.
- Isle Royale National Park, a Lake Superior island in Michigan, is one of the nation's least-visited national parks, it's also one of its most pristine, remote and beautiful.
- Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, established in 1988, includes 72 miles of the Mississippi River in Minnesota, stretching from Dayton and Ramsey to Hastings.
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which features a 40-mile stretch of Michigan's Lake Superior beach, including sandstone cliffs, sand dunes, waterfalls, lakes and forests.
- St. Croix Scenic Riverway, which includes 252 miles of of kayaking, wildlife watching and angling splendor on both the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which features a 35-mile stretch of Michigan's Lake Michigan shoreline, including North and South Manitou Islands ... and the namesake dunes, of course.
- Voyageurs National Park, a water-based park on Minnesota's border with Canada, features ... water, and lots of it in a number of interconnected lakes (none of them Great Lakes, but all surely great in some respect).
With approximately one-fifth of the world's freshwater, of course, the Great Lakes are a national treasure, even if they aren't officially a park.
Washington: Mount Rainier National Park
The Washington state quarter features Mount Rainier National Park, which could have its own coin soon. The U.S. Mint plans to produce new quarters in the order in which the federal government became stewards of the land. Created in 1899, Mount Rainier was the fifth in the National Parks system.
At 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is the highest peak in the Cascade Range -- but it's not the only volcano visible from the park. Mount St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Baker, and Glacier Peak are all visible on a clear day -- as is Mt. Hood on a clear day. (Or, if you have the 2010 Oregon national park quarter in your pocket.)