John Otto (park ranger)

John Otto (Park Ranger)

John Otto (park ranger)

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John Otto (December 30, 1870 - June 19, 1952) was the first park custodian at Colorado National Monument, and had been a key advocate for its creation and its later inclusion in the National Park Service.

A self-professed trailbuilder described as a "benign but enthusiastic eccentric", Otto arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado in 1906. He spent most of his time exploring the nearby plateau and canyon wilderness. In 1907, Otto wrote, "I came here last year and found these canyons, and they felt like the heart of the world to me. I'm going to stay and promote this place, because it should be a national park."

Because of his efforts to promote and protect the area, others took notice, and by 1909 the local newspaper was lobbying to make the area a national park. On May 24, 1911 the area was designated Colorado National Monument. Otto was hired as the Monument's first custodian. Until the mid-1930s he lived in the park and drew a salary of $1 per month.

According to Horace Albright, "Otto was a marvelous guide and knew every inch of his monument, which he tended like a personal kingdom." Among his accomplishments was carving a steep stairway up the near-vertical ascent of Independence Monument, the largest such feature in the park, which after the park's designation he used to summit the monolith and raise an American flag.<ref...
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