2012 America the Beautiful Quarters are the third set of annual coins from the United States Mint series that honors national parks and other national sites.
Designs for the coins were revealed by the United States Mint on December 8, 2011. Featured quarters, and in the order they will be released for the year include:
Puerto Rico – 2012 El Yunque National Forest Quarter (Release date is January 23, 2012)
New Mexico – 2012 Chaco Culture National Historical Park Quarter (Release date is April 2, 2012)
Maine – 2012 Acadia National Park Quarter (Release date is June 11, 2012)
Hawaii – 2012 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Quarter (Release date is August 27, 2012)
Alaska – 2012 Denali National Park Quarter (Release date is November 5, 2012)
These five sites are the eleventh through the fifteenth locations to be honored in the program which releases five quarters a year celebrating the beauty of the United States of America and its territories.
The first President of the United States, George Washington, is featured on the obverse of each coin. Washington has been on the quarter dollar since 1932 and the original John Flanagan portrait is still used today (with some slight modifications done by William Cousins).
The selected national site is featured on the reverse of the quarters with the release schedule determined by the order in which the federal government took control of that site. Thus, as the Hot Springs National Park area in Arkansas came under the control of the federal government in 1832, it was the first coin to be released in 2010. Conversely, the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site was established in 1998, so it will be the last coin in the series and not appear until 2021.
In addition to the quarters, the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008 authorized five ounce silver bullion coins to be struck featuring the same designs as the quarters. Each of these investment-grade America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Bullion Coins™ and companion collector America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coins are three inches in diameter and contain .999 fine silver.
More information on the 2012 America the Beautiful Quarters and the sites they honor is shown below:
El Yunque National Forest
This national forest in Puerto Rico stands as a unique member among the national forest program in that it is the only tropical rain forest in the federal system. Its 28,000 acres hosts an extremely diverse bio system found nowhere else.
Yunque means anvil in Spanish and may be the source of the name as early visits from Spaniards show that the thunderstorms they encountered in the region sounded like hammers hitting anvils. Another possible source for the name is the indigenous peoples word for the area of "Yu-ke", thought to mean "White Lands."
However, the name came about, it is certain that the area is unique. At its highest regions, including the second highest peak in the mountain range also known as El Yunque, an estimated 250 inches of rain fall annually
Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Hosting the best concentrations of pueblos in the southwest of the United States, Chaco Culture National Historic Park honors the ancient pueblo people who lived in the region a thousand years ago.
The park is located in northwestern New Mexico between Albuquerque and Farmington, but fears of erosion caused by tourism has led to several areas being declared off limits to the public. Despite this, the park system works closely with the Hopi and Pueblo descendants to insure their concerns are taken into account while maintaining access to most areas.
By 1050, the Chaco area was being abandoned in favor of other locations leaving its ruins for future generations to ponder on.
Acadia National Park
Honored as the first national park east of the Mississippi River, Acadia is located in the state of Maine and preserves a location central to many cultures including Native Americans and European settlers.
The park consists mostly of 47 square miles on Mount Desert Island, but also includes areas of the smaller island Isle au Haut and part of the Schoodic Peninsula. An estimated 2.2 million visitors a year take in the area’s beautiful coastal views as well as the other recreational opportunities the area has to offer.
Of interest, philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was instrumental in the creation of many of the parks trails in the early part of the 1900′s.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Established in 1916, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is located on the island of Hawaii (also known as the big island).
Through the activity of one of the most active Volcanoes in the world (Kīlauea), the island is still growing. This is because the lava Kīlauea is spewing is flowing into the ocean, which immediately cools the red hot substance and forms rock.
Over 1.5 million visitors make their way to the island park annually to see the volcanic activity in action. Activity ranges from vents in Summit Crater billowing ash and fumes to lava flows accessible to visitors.
Denali National Park
Denali is located in the interior of Alaska and literally means "the high one." This is because the park contains Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America.
Encompassing over 6 million acres, the park hosts an estimated 1.1 million visitors a year to its remote location.
An interesting side-note, when the park was first created in 1917, only a small portion of the mountain, not even including its summit, was within the parks boundaries.
For a location to be considered for the America the Beautiful Quarters Program, it must be under the control of the federal government, with one site representing each state, Washington D.C. and the five US territories — American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands — for total of 56 new quarter designs.
For a listing of the other national parks and sites featured in the program, view the National Park and Site Quarters List.