A self-professed trailbuilder described as a "benign but enthusiastic eccentric", Otto arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado in 1906, helped construct a municipal waterline between Pinon Mesa and Fruita, Colorado, and acquainted himself with the neighboring topography. 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 the Colorado National Monument. Otto was hired as the Monument's first custodian, in which capacity he earned one dollar per month until leaving the post in 1929.
The main difference, politically at least, between establishing a national monument and a national park is that a park requires congressional action, but a presidential declaration is sufficient to create a monument. Maybe President Taft was easier to persuade than the Congress in 1911.
Although the park has campgrounds, picnic grounds, and hiking trails, we stuck to the main road, Rim Rock Drive, justly described in the National Park Service’s brochure as “23 miles of breathtaking views.” The eastern entrance is near Grand Junction, where we were staying, but we chose to drive about 20 miles to the western entrance in a small town with the sort-of-Latin name of Fruita. Although we would have received a copy of the NPS brochure (which includes a good map) at either entrance, on our previous trip in the west we had formed the habit of stopping at a park’s visitor center at the beginning rather than the end of our visit, and the only way to do that here was to use the Fruita entrance.