Colorado National Monument

Thu, 25 Jul 2002

The difference between a National Monument and a National Park is that the Park gets created by an act of Congress while a Monument is created by the President. Both, Dinosaur and Colorado National Monument have been created at the beginning of the 20th century.

Dinosaur National Monument was created by Woodrow Wilson in 1915. Why did he do that. Now, 1909 one Dr. Earl Douglass discovered eight vertebrae of an Apatosaurus right at the spot where the Dinosaur quarry building is located today. He was working for Andrew Carnegie who, being the richest man on earth at the turn of the century, had taken a fancy in establishing the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. At that time, Dinosaur bones were the big thing, so Earls discovery was highly welcome. Hundreds of tons of fossilized bones got shipped to Pittsburgh enhancing the Dinosaur bone collection at Carnegies museum. This had been going on for some time, when other paleontologists got wind from Earls dig and showed up at the quarry. At that time the land there was not owned by anybody, so Earl and Carnegie had no means for getting rid of these other researchers. As it happened, soon after, in 1915, Woodrow Wilson declared that the 80 acres around Earls quarry should henceforth be called the Dinosaur National Monument. With that it was immediately forbidden to remove anything from this land. For Carnegie this would have been very bad, as it would have prevented further dinosaur bones to be brought to Pittsburgh. At that time though, there was a loophole in the National Monument law. One man each year could get a license to take items from a National Monument. Now guess who got awarded this license for the following 7 years ...

The creation of the Colorado National Monument was due to John Otto. When he arrived in the Grand Junction area at the start of the 20th century he was immediately taken by the beauty of the canyons which make up the Colorado National Monument. He liked this landscape so much, that he spent all of his time hiking in the canyons. With some help from the people of Grand Junction he waged a letter writing campaign for the creation of a National Park in the area. With the result that in 1911 President Taft created the Colorado National Monument. For the symbolic salary of one dollar a month John Otto became the first custodian of the monument and remained at this position for many years.

Text and images created 2002 by Tobi Oetiker
(Yes, I do like people writing me about these logs! I sometimes wonder if anybody is reading them.)