Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin
2005 Oregon Quarter
June's coin is Oregon's quarter, which shows us one of the natural wonders of the world: Crater Lake, in Oregon's only National Park. But the lake might still be a secret if not for a special June in the lake's history.
Crater Lake rests in what's left of Mount Mazama, an ancient volcano. About 7,700 years ago, the volcano erupted, spreading its ash over much of western North America. So much material blew out that the mountain collapsed into itself, turning a 12,000-foot high mountain into a 4,000-foot deep crater. The rain and snow that fall in the crater have formed a lake almost 2,000 feet deep! This is the deepest lake in the United States—and maybe the bluest.
The Native Americans who saw Mount Mazama erupt kept the event alive in their legends. One legend from the Klamath Indians tells of two great chiefs pitted in battle. Their warring ended in the destruction of Mt. Mazama.
The Klamaths revered the lake area, keeping it hidden from European settlers until 1853. On June 12 of that year, three gold prospectors climbed the mountain and came upon the huge, awe-inspiring lake. They reported it as "the bluest lake we've ever seen," and named it Deep Blue Lake. But since they were more interested in gold than lakes, the discovery was forgotten until the U.S. Geological Survey sent people there to measure the lake's depth years later.
Starting in 1870, a man named William Gladstone Steel spent his life and fortune trying to make Crater Lake into a national park. Steel's dream came true in 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill that created Crater Lake National Park.