Without John Otto, there is no telling what would have happened to the amazing rock formations and canyons just south of Fruita/ Grand Junction, Colorado.

Known to many as the Father of the Colorado National Monument, Otto's efforts to preserve the area as a national park began with his arrival in Western Colorado, followed by 5 years of non-stop campaigning before President Taft created the Monument in 1911.

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John Otto Arrived in Fruita, Colorado in 1906

John Otto first arrived in Western Colorado in 1906 when he came to Fruita, Colorado to be part of an irrigation project when he fell in love with the sandstone canyons south of town. Otto's theme for the Monument was American patriotism. Many of the park features like the Independence Monument and the Liberty Cap were all named by John Otto who blazed many of the trails we all enjoy today during his time as the first custodian of the Colorado National Monument from 1911 to 1929. Otto was paid $1 per month as the custodian of the Monument.

John Otto's Letter Writing Campaigns

Otto began to write letters to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel as well as to political figures, and even President William Howard Taft. Otto promoted the rim rock canyons and spires atop Fruita and Grand Junction and asked that they be made into a National Park. Otto even held his wedding inside the canyons in 1911 when he married Beatrice Farnham near the base of the Independence Monument. Visitors can still follow the steps of the wedding party up Wedding Canyon to the site of their matrimony inside the Monument.

The view looking up Wedding Canyon at the Colorado National Monument.
The view looking up Wedding Canyon at the Colorado National Monument.

President William Howard Taft's Role in the Colorado National Monument

Had President Taft hot come up under President Theodore Roosevelt, there is no telling what he would have done with the National Park question when he came into office. Thanks to Roosevelt's Antiquities Act of 1906, Taft had all the power and president he needed to create the Monument. Taft came to Grand Junction in 1909 to attend the Grand Junction Peach Festival. He may have had his first chance to visit the Monument then, but returned to the site of the Monument in 1911 to make it official.

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