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Last Quarter of the Year Honors the Idaho Wilderness

Posted by Larry Moore, Office of Communication, USDA Forest Service in Forestry
Dec 11, 2019
Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor Chuck Mark and U.S. Mint Director David J. Ryder at the ceremony celebrating the new quarter
Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor Chuck Mark and U.S. Mint Director David J. Ryder at the ceremony celebrating the new quarter. USDA photo

Take a closer look next time you get your change, you might get one of the freshly-minted Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness quarters!

This quarter is the 50th release for the America the Beautiful quarter series by the U.S. Mint.

The U.S. Mint started the America the Beautiful Quarters Program back in 2010 and releases five new designs every year. The design of the quarter features the familiar George Washington profile, with features of outstanding natural sites in each state, territory and Washington D.C. The back of the coin includes a piloted drift boat on the rushing river, encompassed by trees and rock formations — representative of the type of landscape in the Idaho wilderness.

The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness stretches across the Salmon-Challis, Payette, Nez Perce-Clearwater, and Bitterroot National Forests and encompasses more than 2.3 million acres. Established in 1980, it is the largest contiguous and federally-managed wilderness in the continental United States.  The wild and scenic Middle and Main Forks of the Salmon River split the Salmon River Mountains from the Clearwater Mountains and Bighorn Crags.

The quarter was unveiled last month at an event in Salmon, Idaho, where U.S. Mint Director David J. Ryder said it “serves as a reminder of the essence of the Wilderness—more than two million acres of prehistoric mountains, fertile conifers and commanding rivers but flourishing with stories of heritage and wonder.”

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson was in attendance, along with representatives of Idaho Senator Mike Crapo’s office and others. Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor Chuck Mark gave a speech during the event where he shared many of the reasons why the Wilderness — called “The Frank” among those that know it best — is one of Idaho’s great treasures.

“It is the reason many people live in Idaho,” Mark said. “It is one of the largest intact places left in the lower 48 states where mother nature still functions pretty well.”

The area got its rather lengthy and unique name from two sources: the Salmon River was formally called “the river of no return” back when boats could navigate downstream but not back up again because of the fast water and many rapids. In addition, Frank Church, who served as a United States Senator from the great state of Idaho from 1957 to 1981, long championed environmental causes during his time on Capitol Hill. That support included the creation of wilderness areas in the 1960s. Senator Church also sponsored the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and worked to establish the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, Sawtooth Wilderness and Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The River of No Return Wilderness was renamed the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area in his honor in 1984, shortly after he succumbed to pancreatic cancer.

Senator Church said the reason for setting the area aside was to “make certain that generations of Americans yet unborn will know how to experience life on undeveloped, unoccupied land in the same form and character as the Creator fashioned it.”

The U.S. Mint plans to continue releasing five quarters a year as part of the series through 2021.

Category/Topic: Forestry