One man’s dream: Colorado National Monument

John Otto

Once again, we came upon the power of one person [or perhaps a few] to make a difference to a community.  We had seen it at the Hubble Trading Post where Hubble made a difference to the local Navajos, in Lake Placid, Florida, in Helen, Georgia last summer, in Casey, Illinois and in the Wisconsin Dells in the fall.

Then in September, we drove through the Colorado National Monument just outside Grand Junction.

The town of Fruita lies in the distance.

John Otto lived alone in the canyons and on the plateau southwest of Grand Junction, Colorado at the end of the 19th century.  He was married briefly, but his wife couldn’t take the isolation and his eccentricities.

As tectonic plates pushed together millions of years ago creating the Rocky Mountains, the Uncompahgre Plateau rose over 2000 feet above the Colorado River.  Then over millennia, water flowing off the plateau carved canyons leaving scattered columns here and there.

John Otto loved the place so much, he encouraged everyone in the area to lobby Congress to make it a National Park.  He worked tirelessly without pay, not only pushing the idea but cutting trails through the area so that others could enjoy it too.

The efforts of Otto and those he convinced, resulted in the creation of the 32-square mile Colorado National Monument in 1911.  Otto was named the park’s caretaker and held the job until 1927 at the grand salary of one dollar per month.

Not a very good picture of a desert Bighorn

The only species we saw of the many animals in the park was the desert bighorn sheep.  We captured a picture of some butts disappearing into the brush.  But just seeing the vistas was worth driving the 23-mile long Rim Rock Drive.  There are campgrounds for those who wish to stay longer and 45 miles of trails ranging from one just a quarter mile long to the eight and a half mile-long trail into the the No Thoroughfare Canyon.

Click on photos to enlarge. Back click to return to the post

Date of our visit: 27 September 2018


About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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11 Responses to One man’s dream: Colorado National Monument

  1. Thanks for the exploration of this fascinating park through your words and photography.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We all have to be grateful that this John Otto worked so hard for transforming this beautiful landscape into a National Park!

    Liked by 2 people

    • ralietravels says:

      We have encountered people many times who have the energy and focus to make a difference. Shortly after moving to our home in Florida, we met a woman whose efforts ended creating a new attitude towards public landscaping, zoning etc. for the entire county making the it a much more pleasant place to live.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jane Randlett says:

    Gonna do a return trip to SW and add Colorado National Monument to our adventure. d

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loraine E Beckman says:

    Some of the area you mentioned we had gone through when we went to Grand Junction, Cedaredge, and Delta, Colorado. That was right after we were married. We were supposed to go back to Delta for a memorial this month but don’t think we will make it. Keith isn’t doing that well and it was for a lady he had known since he was a boy and so helpful to his mother. Thanks again for the history lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. One dollar a month… If ever there was a definition of love, that was it. No wonder his wife left him. Shoe couldn’t compete with the countryside. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Dave Ply says:

    Impressive countryside. I have only vague memories of driving through Grand Junction some 40 years ago. Guess it’s time to travel by car rather than by airplane for a change – see what I’ve been missing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It is a stunning place and I am grateful to Mr. Otto for having preserved it for posterity. Good for you for having seen Bighorn Sheep there. We did not.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Marsi says:

    This is a a beautiful park with an interesting story. One instagrammer I follow wrote that it is Colorado doing it’s best Utah impression”. It was so smoky and hazy when we visited last summer though. I’d like to go back when the skies are clear.

    Liked by 1 person

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