Colorado National Monument
Hiking in the Heart of the World
We visited Colorado National Monument this morning. We had planned to spend just a couple of hours there, but ended up spending the whole day it was so interesting. John Otto was the man who fell in love with the place when he visited it in 1907 and dedicated the best part of his life to building trails there and getting it designated as a National,Park, which he achieved in 1911. He worked as the park’s caretaker then for $1 a day, so dedicated was he to the site.
John Ottos’s Dream: “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.”
John Otto got married at the 450 foot high Independence Monument – giving the name Wedding Canyon to the neighbouring land.
The marriage didn’t last though – his wife could not stand living with a man who preferred a tent out in the open to the comfort of even a wooden cabin.
The Canyon used to be all one piece, but the erosive forces of water wind and ice working slowly over millions of years created the structures that remain today.
There was once a sea here. We know this, because fossil remains of marine creatures that looked a bit like dinosaurs have been found in the area.
Shifting plates eventually lead to the formation of the Colorado Plateau and the Rocky Mountains beyond it and the sea flowed away between them.The area only became readily accessible to man thanks to the building of the road, which must have been a tortuous job.
The Great Depression provided a ready source of labour for the project.
Balanced Rock and The Coke Ovens
The main features are named in a very WYSIWYG way here. Balanced Rock – a 600 ton Boulder perched in top of a rock pedestal and the aptly named Coke Ovens.
Flora and Fauna
The Alcove trail leads you right through into an ancient sand dune. This is desert landscape – the area only gets 10 inches of rain a year.
Utah juniper, pinyon pines and prickly pears dominate the landscape. We also saw yucca and desert rockcress.
Desert cottontails and lizards make this their home – as does – somewhat more worryingly – mountain lion. Desert bighorn sheep and eagles are can also frequently be seen here, but we were unlucky with that today.
We finished the hike at a picnic spot which looked out over the Colorado Monument and the surrounding land. An unbelievable vista – only made possible by this hardworking road builders and John Otto’s Dream.