We can thank the great and eccentric John Otto for the Colorado National Monument; when he came to the area in 1906 and discovered the red rock canyons, he wrote, “I came here last year and found these canyons, and they feel like the heart of the world to me. I’m going to stay and build trails and promote this place, because it should be a national park.” Even before it was proclaimed a national monument by President Taft on May 24, 1911, Otto had already explored extensively and carved out trails with pick and shovel, accompanied by his favorite horse, Rowdy. He became the park’s first custodian in 1911, drawing a salary of $12 a year, and lived in a tent alone in the park for the next 16 years, except for a brief interval in 1911, when he married Beatrice Farnham, a Boston artist. His ardent insistence on the rough and ready life soon wore her down, though, and she said, “I tried hard to live his way, but I could not do it, I could not live with a man to whom even a cabin was an encumbrance;” and they soon divorced. As the years passed, and the construction of the park continued, the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933 enabled skilled local men to do the roads and trails work. Today, we enjoy the hiking, camping, and beautiful vistas that the Colorado National Monument gives us, and we owe it all to John Otto. In addition, did you know that you can check out a free, seven-day pass to the Colorado National Monument?
To read more about John Otto and the Colorado National Monument, check out these books from the library: