This Grand Junction history lesson is all about how the Colorado National Monument came to be. When John Otto laid eyes on the Colorado National Monument in 1906 he fell in love instantly. Here's how he helped make the Colorado National Monument a National Park.

John Otto moved to Grand Junction, Colorado from California and once he saw the Colorado National Monument, he knew that was his home. He wanted to make sure that other people got to appreciate the Colorado National Monument's beauty too, so pushed to make it a national park.

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He spent years doing tours, interviews, collecting signatures for petitions, writing letters to politicians, and more to make the Colorado National Monument a part of the National Park Service. President Taft made the Colorado National Monument a national park on May 24, 1911.

John Otto lived alone in the Colorado National Monument, with the exception of his brief marriage which ended due to his lifestyle. His wife, Beatrice Farnham, left him a few weeks after he got married because she 'could not live with a man to whom even a cabin was an encumbrance.'

John spent lots of time creating trails using a shovel and a pick to carve trails and named rock formations after historic events and heroes. Many of the rock formations still have their original names from John Otto such as Independence Monument and Liberty Cap.

He truly loved the Colorado National Monument and said this about it the year after he moved there, according to the National Park Service:

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 the place, because it should be a national park.

We admire how committed John Otto was to sharing the Colorado National Monument with the public and can't imagine Grand Junction without it. John Otto was a recluse and wasn't seeking money or attention, he just wanted to share the magnificent Colorado National Monument with the world and we respect him and appreciate him for it.

Spotted: Bighorn Sheep on the Colorado National Monument

Scenic Air Tour of Grand Junction

Those of us that live in western Colorado are privileged to enjoy the awesome views on a daily basis of the Grand Mesa, the Bookcliffs, and the Colorado National Monument. But, seeing Grand Junction and the monument from the air gives a very different perspective and a great appreciation for this surrounding beauty. I did a scenic air tour of the monument and wanted to share a little bit of the experience with you.

LOOK: Stunning vintage photos capture the beauty of America's national parks

Today these parks are located throughout the country in 25 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The land encompassing them was either purchased or donated, though much of it had been inhabited by native people for thousands of years before the founding of the United States. These areas are protected and revered as educational resources about the natural world, and as spaces for exploration.

Keep scrolling for 50 vintage photos that show the beauty of America's national parks.

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