Dear CNMA Members,

Have you seen any tree leaves change their hue? Have you detected a cooler breeze entering our valley? At the monument the bighorn sheep have started their rutting season and the broom snakeweed are in full bloom. Fall is here!

Colorado National Monument has been rolling with the punches and getting acclimated to a busier norm. The visitor center continues to bring lots of visitors to accentuate our busy schedules.

We're getting ready for a flurry of activity with Walks and Talks, Tour of the Moon, Monuments and Canyons Plein Air Art Invitational, and BANFF film festival. Will we see you at any of these events? We hope so!

Did you see CNMA at any farmers markets this year? We set up booths this year to sell some merchandise, but mostly to meet community members and chat about the monument. We look forward to more community engagement in the months to come.

CNMA has continued to fund educational materials including the Junior Ranger program. Did you know there have been 3,387 Junior Rangers sworn in at the monument so far this year?!

The Saddlehorn project's design contract is complete and the construction documents have been received! Hooray! The hard part is done as there are so many details to consider with projects on protected lands plus all construction has to preserve the historical nature of the current structures. The environmental and cultural compliance process is nearing completion and once that is done then trail work can begin and construction documents can be submitted to our contracting office. In a perfect scenario construction would be completed next fall, but as we all know, this date is uncertain in these especially uncertain times.

COVID-19 still affects all of our lives, but we hope to be able to get out into the community and see all of our members soon. Along with the events listed above, we will also be at Ramblebine Brewery on October 14th to celebrate the release of the beer made especially for CNMA! We also are planning a CNMA member event for the beginning of November. Keep your eyes out for more information on these fun events!

CNMA wouldn't be where it is today without our supporters and we are so thankful for everything you do to help us in achieving our mission.

With Gratitude,

Johanna van Waveren and John Lintott

CNMA Co-Executive Directors

2021 Monuments and Canyons Plein Air Art Invitational,

Sponsored by Family Health West.

by John Lintott

Mick McGinty_Big Shadows_16 x 20_oil on canvas panel_plein air__1000.JPG

The time has come, and we couldn’t be more excited. On September 26th through October 3rd, 22 artists from around the country will spend their days and evenings creating paintings of Colorado National Monument and its surrounding areas.

During this week you may see an artist or two painting off of Hwy 340, or along one of the many trails in the monument or the BLM areas nearby. Stop by and say hello! 

This year, the public will have the opportunity to see the artists in action not only randomly during the week, but also at two designated group paint outs. On September 29th, from 8:30am to 11am the artists will gather at the Saddlehorn picnic area in Colorado National Monument, to paint the stunning views of Monument Canyon. Then on Thursday, September 30th, from 8:30am to 11am artists will gather at the Devil’s Canyon Trailhead in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, and paint throughout the network of trails in that area. These two gatherings are a great opportunity for the public to come and see the artists in their process and to engage and ask questions. 


At the end of the week, the artists will display the works they created at the Carlson Vineyard Tasting Room on Main Street in downtown Grand Junction. The exhibit begins Friday night from 5pm to 8pm for the member and sponsor preview night, and awards ceremony. Free admission for all sponsors and members of the CNMA.  Non-members must purchase tickets for $30 (includes a Chinle level membership with the Colorado National Monument Association). This year there will be a cash bar with Carlson Vineyard wines (there will not be refreshments). It's an exciting opportunity to be among the first to see these incredible artists's work!

Kari Ganoung Ruiz - KariGanoungRuiz_Adornment_8x10_oil_Studio_550.jpg

Then on Saturday from 10am - 5pm and Sunday from 10am - 2pm the exhibit will be open for free to the public. Note: on Saturday from 9am -10am we will have a block of time for high risk individuals to view the show, with the least numbers of people.


We are grateful to many of the people in this community that support the arts and support this show. They are the patrons that have made this show a success for now the 5th year.  This year’s sponsors for the 2021 Monuments and Canyons Plein Air Invitational are: Family Health West, Quick Temps, LLC, and Lithic Book Press. Thanks also to Enstroms, Junt’n Square Pizza, Loki, Eureka! Science Museum, and Carlson Vineyards.


To see the artists and examples of their work visit:

John Otto: Enthusiastic Eccentric of the Colorado National Monument

by Camille Jestrovich


Around 1906, Colorado National Monument was first marketed as a tourist destination by the town of Fruita

A booklet distributed by the Fruita Bureau of Information stated that if visitors to the area were looking for a daytrip, “Monument Canon, Fruita Park, Devil’s Canyon, etc. all within two hours ride afford places of recreation and scenes of grandeur, rivaling The Garden of the God’s.” Photographs were shown with captions such as “Scenes from Monument Canon” and “Nature Freak Near Fruita '' describing the monument known as Kissing Couple (the word “canyon” was spelled “canon” until around 1911.) Otto’s national park proposition was formally approved by the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce in 1908. A Senate Bill to certify 17,000 acres to become “Monument National Park'' was introduced by Senator Guggenheim in 1910.

A wood hauling business was started in the park by Otto during WWI

He aspired to finance the completion of his pet project, “The Union Road, from Grand Mesa to Grand Canyon” with the revenue raised in a wood hauling project. In a letter addressed to the Department of the Interior he asked for permission to supply dead wood from the park to economically depressed Grand Valley residents in order to heat their homes. He felt that leaving the dead timber to rot was a waste of resources. Permits were issued for 50 cents a load for those inclined to haul their own wood out of the park. 

This wood hauling business ran into several obstacles. One gentleman refused to comply with Otto’s regulations and hauled the wood home without a permit. John obtained a warrant, took along a sheriff and ordered the man to pay up, which he did. Not all residents approved of the project, claiming it was “unamerican to make old timers” pay for wood taken from any public place. Once the National Park Service learned that he was making money off the wood business, they demanded that he send them every dime: $35.05.

When trying to choose a name for the park, the most accepted reference was “Monolithic National Park.”


Other possible choices were Otto’s National Park, Centennial Park, and Mile-High National Park. John, jokingly, announced in the Daily Sentinel that it should be called “Smith National Park” for it would bring in a multitude of visitors named “Smith.” Ultimately, Congressman Taylor’s wife recommended Colorado National Monument. Taylor thought that to be a fitting name in that he was in the process of renaming the Grand River the Colorado River.

Otto’s Trees of Life

While reading an article in the Mesa County Mail and Fruita Tribune, he discovered that the Queen of England had announced that citizens should plant more trees in order to beautify the countryside. John was inspired! He suggested creating an area on the Monument called the “Trees of Life” to provide additional beauty and shade to the area. These trees would include grapevines, Weeping Willow, evergreens, and apple trees. 

In the spring of 1911, just after Arbor Day, John extended an invitation to the public to travel to Monument Canyon for the planting of apple trees near “Big Apple Spring.” Otto had converted small flows of spring water into catchments to benefit visitors and pack animals. Roughly 30 residents from Fruita attended the event. After the planting and naming ceremony, “Boys with proverbial tomato soup cans packed water from the pools to properly soak the soil around the roots.” The following year he planned to plant a pear, prune, peach, quince, and crab apple tree. “Then in the course of time, someone may come along and tell us that the National Monument Park is a modern Garden of Eden.” 

Otto celebrated patriotic holidays with enthusiasm

In 1908, in observance of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday and to keep the community centered on the canyons, he lit a huge bonfire on the rim rocks. He announced, “I am going to pile up dry waste wood and set a match to it about 8 o’clock pm” in recognition of the author of the Declaration of Independence. The unusual spectacle was so well received that he decided to repeat it in an observance for the Fourth of July. In Monument Canyon, he set 15 gigantic bonfires blazing in a line. Grand Junction spectators who viewed the display were dazzled by the sight of the glowing fires and Otto continued to produce them for several weeks.

In 1924, John Otto came up with the idea that a herd of big game should inhabit the monument

He convinced the Colorado Game and Fish Department to ship six young elk, and succeeded in getting the local Elks Lodge to pay for transportation costs. After several years, however, the elk found their feeding grounds too sparse of vegetation and water and migrated to Pinon Mesa, where their offspring can still be found. Otto was not discouraged, however, and came up with the idea to start a bison herd. It was to be acquired by school children’s donations of buffalo nickels, the Odd Fellows, and others. In addition to the deer, elk, and bison, Otto aspired to add antelope and bighorn sheep to establish “Uncle Sam’s Ranch.”  During the 1940s to 1970s, overgrazing persuaded park managers to repeatedly reduce the herd size and ultimately move the entire bison population. The last of the Colorado National Monument’s bison were relocated to Badlands National Park in 1983.

Otto’s deep empathy for his fellow man.


Fifty years after John Otto’s death in 1952, Michael O’Boyle, CNMA member and Todd Overby, CNM’s Fee Supervisor, brought an impressive sandstone monument, purchased with contributed monies, to Yreka, California in order to place it on Otto’s grave. The celebration was attended by about 50 townspeople and 25 Grand Junction citizens who wished to pay their respects. Both O’Boyle and Overby tell of an encounter with an elderly gentleman named Earl Skinner who told an interesting story. Skinner worked at a local foundry and one day Otto came to his workplace with “quite a bit of gold” he had collected when panning. He asked the foundry to make a mold in the shape of a star in order to make stars for the Gold Star families who resided along the Klamath River. Another illustration of Otto’s compassion, in addition to his involvement with women’s suffrage and labor issues was, of course, his desire for all to enjoy his beloved Colorado National Monument by establishing trails and championing for a road through the monument.

In Al Look’s book, John Otto and the Colorado National Monument, Look, who knew Otto well, says that perhaps Otto was “far too advanced for all of us around here and his teachings were too deep for people to grasp.” And that, “In defeat he was more triumphant than in victory.”

This is the third John Otto article by Camille Jestrovich. Check out CNMA's past newsletters for more on our park's founder.

To learn more about John Otto’s captivating story, read “John Otto and the Colorado National Monument,” by Al Look, “John Otto of the Colorado National Monument,” by Alan J. Kania and “John Otto: Trail and Trial,” by Alan J. Kania. Online, you can also read, “A Classic Western Quarrel: A History of the Road Controversy at Colorado National Monument,” by Lisa Schoch-Roberts. Also, a very engaging piece by one of CNMA’s sponsors, Seth Anderson of LOKI, entitled “John Otto-CNM Founder’s Bold Legacy.”

Flute Music in the Monument

by Johanna van Waveren

Visitors of Colorado National Monument might be staring into the salmon-colored canyons and hear the magical sound of a flute.

Some visitors might think they traveled back in time. Some may think that this special place is starting to have a funny effect on them. And still others may notice a gentleman positioned under a juniper tree playing a wooden flute while violet-green swallows dance and dip, flying nearby.

Greg Dillon has been coming up to the monument for two and a half years "to toot and talk." He normally sits close to the visitor center and many passersby stop to enjoy the gentle music and often have a short chat with Greg since, not only is Greg musically-inclined, he also is very friendly. Greg says the reason he enjoys playing music at the monument is that he gets to talk with people from all over the world.


Greg also displays the beautiful flutes and you may be surprised to learn that he constructs these instruments of art and melody. He has been working with wood for approximately 75 years, but it’s only been 7 years since he began making flutes. He makes two chamber, Plain Indian-style flutes that are simply gorgeous. They feature various woods, stones, and fetishes (or charms).

Greg plays the flute at the monument to connect with nature and visitors of the monument. The designs of his flutes can be traced to those of the Native Americans. Native peoples had their own reasons for playing flutes. Some of reasons including frightening their enemy, dancing, and courting.


William Wroth in Ute Indian Arts and Culture wrote, “It was thought that only the young woman being courted could hear the heartfelt songs of the [flute] player or that only she alone would recognize the song of her suitor.” Doesn't this sound romantic?

Flute music might accompany ceremony and dance which were important aspects of many Native American cultures including the Utes. Charles S. Marsh in People of the Shining Mountain mentions that, “The Utes shared their great love for singing and dancing with all Indians. These deeply spiritual forms of human expression held especially important significance. The outpouring of human passions such as joy, hope, anger, and fear to be found in singing and dancing served the Indian… in his attempt to explain the meaning of life.”

So, please come to the visitor center and listen out for Greg’s harmonious flute sounds as they mix with the sound of wind through pinon pines and perhaps even the gentle buzzing of cicadas. Perhaps picnic nearby and close your eyes. Think back to a time when Native Americans inhabited this land. There was much less noise then, only the sounds of the environment occasionally mixed with music the native people created in harmony with the natural world that surrounded them.

Thanks to Greg for providing us with a reminder of the past, as well as a perfect soundtrack for our red rock canyons.

Works Cited:

People of the Shining Mountains by Charles S. Marsh Pruett Publishing Company, 1982

Ute Indian Arts and Culture Edited by William Wroth, Taylor Museum of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 2000

Naturalization Ceremony at Colorado National Monument Welcomed 38 New US Citizens

Read more here!

CNMA bought each new citizen an America the Beautiful Pass which gives them free access to all federal public lands for one year!

Thanks to CNMA member, Terri Ahern, for this photo of the pledge of allegiance after the pronouncenment of citizenship.

CNMA's Newest Employee,

Nicole Gutentag

Nicole Gutentag was born in Colorado and grew up in Lakewood, with her parents and one brother.

Nature has always played a large role in her life from growing up spending huge amounts of time outside examining plants and animals to earning her Bachelor's Degree in Biology (with a minor in Studio Art) at Metro State University of Denver. At some point, she hopes to pursue her education further by entering a Masters program for Conservation Ecology or Evolutionary Biology.

In addition to her love of learning, Nicole also enjoys hiking, birding, photography, and making people laugh. 

She recently moved to Grand Junction in February, but is very familiar with the area since she grew up visiting family here. 

She has always been very drawn to Colorado National Monument, and has spent significant amounts of time hiking and exploring it. Nicole is extremely pleased to be a part of the team at CNMA and looks forward to what the future holds. 

Nicole is a sales associate at the visitor center and contributes to CNMA's social media. She will also take over as the Walks and Talks coordinator this winter.

Meet the Board Series: Dave Conner

Johanna: You work for ProVelocity. Can you tell me a little about this company?

Dave: We are a managed technology services provider serving local governments and businesses.


Johanna: Do you have any favorite hobbies that you would like to share?

Dave: Mountain biking, skiing and hiking, but most of my time is spent raising 2 kids, 12 and 17.


Johanna: How long have you lived in Grand Junction? What is your favorite quality of Grand Junction? 

Dave: 42 years. Grand Junction has changed so much since I moved here, I never thought I would stay too long – finish school and be gone. Well, this location is close enough to the mountains with the monument in our back yard. How can you beat that?


Johanna: Do you have a memory of your first time in the monument? 

Dave: My first memory of the monument was going over to a friend’s house in the Redlands and we hiked as far vertically up as we could. Being a teenager and knowing “everything,” we got stuck and had a hard time getting down. After that I seemed to “respect” the monument a whole lot more. 


Johanna: You are a fellow Rotarian. Why do you like participating in Grand Junction Rotary?

Dave: Basically it gives me a chance to do something for someone else. I have gotten so much from this community and now have a opportunity to give back to it.


Johanna: If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Dave: Probably the ability to time travel. I am a history buff and would love to go back in time to see what life was like at different periods. 

Photo of a Fence Lizard in Ute Canyon by Connor McLeish

The First Sunrays

by Lisa Lesperance Kautsky

There is a solitary, solemn moment, in western Colorado, when the first sunrays poke over the Grand Mesa and shatter into the craggy red monoliths of the Colorado National Monument. Whoosh, the match is lit and soon the massive slabs of sandstone, burst into vivid hues of auburn, burnt sienna, umber, terra cotta. All goes silent as the spectacle is observed. Mule deer stop in their tracks and raise their heads, the morning’s brilliance mirrored in their eyes. Pink and white sego lilies lift their petals in obeisance, as I take in all the wonder.

From moment to moment, the scene becomes more radiant, and soon I notice a flutter in my heart space. I recognize the familiar yet exhilarating physical sensation that is happening in my heart and I name it. It’s a Sense of Awe. I stay with it. I invite it to stay with me. I’m captivated and ever so gently my heart softens, and my shoulders drop a notch. I’m put squarely in the present moment, the here and now. In this quiet stillness, I continue to take in the unfolding of the morning’s rapture, but now with eyes closed. I breathe in Awe. I bathe in Awe. And when I open my eyes, I see that the morning phenomenon is slowly waning, and I take in the remaining sustenance. I gather my senses and head back home, renewed, and restored.

This is a Colorado National Monument Moment. If you’ve spent time on the monument, you realize there are many such moments.

- Hiking uphill, you come around a corner and see silhouettes of big horn sheep perched on a ledge above you. You rest, watch, and marvel.

- On the desert floor, you notice mysterious sand verbena in full flower nodding in the breeze just for you.

- A turquoise lizard darts against the red desert sand and steals your gaze.

- The serene desert stillness migrates down into your heart and opens a door deep inside, to a place of peace and calm.

- Gliding on a bike down from Cold Shivers Point brings a moment of sheer ecstasy.

- Mystical cliffs pop out of cottony fog and surprise you.

- Desert night sky begets a secret wonder within you.

- A quiet snowy day beneath red cliffs generates an unforeseen solace.

These sacred moments bring a deep reconciliation. They guide us into the present and remind, what is important. We become objective, old biases fade. We are made whole. This sense of awe transforms and transcends, providing us with a sense of purpose, and connection. We bring this new sense back into our homes, families, and work lives, where we inevitably offer a sense of our peace-filled hearts.


This article was written by Lisa Lesperance Kautsky. As a licensed professional counselor in Grand Junction, Lisa Lesperance Kautsky, LPC. runs her private practice, Red Bike Counseling, where she promotes a mindful approach to nature and its therapeutic effects, and helps clients learn how Nature Therapy enhances traditional mental health approaches. Additionally, Lisa contributes regularly to her company’s Red Bike Blog, promoting mental health wellness.

Curious to learn more about what you discovered in this article? Book a complimentary 15-minute discovery call to speak with Lisa at:

Upcoming Fall Walks and Talks

October 6th 5:30pm... CPW Bighorn Sheep Program

Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists, Zac and Genevieve Fuller, will discuss interesting aspects of the desert bighorn sheep.

October 20th 5:30pm... Native Pest Issues Impacting Pinon and Juniper Trees

Kamie Long with the Colorado State Forest Service will share information on the ips beetle and other forest pests.

October 28th 5:30... Bat Program

Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist, Dan Neubaum, will highlight research he is working on with the bats of Colorado National Monument.


These programs will be located at Devil's Kitchen Picnic Area. All programs are limited to 10 cars.

Please sign up on-line at These programs are listed at the bottom of the homepage.

Thanks to Rick Ahern for sharing this amazing photo of a fireball during this year's Perseid Meteor Shower.

Join us at the BANFF Film Festival!

We are beneficiaries of the BANFF Film Festival here in Grand Junction thanks to the Grand Junction Rotary Club!

Please check out this year's incredible BANFF films at the Avalon tonight and tomorrow night, September 24th and 25th!

New CNMA Products for Sale

Did you know we now have Enstrom's toffee for sale in a special, commemorative monument box?!


I love Charley Harper's artwork and now you can support the monument by buying one of these gorgeous canyon country puzzles that feature his artwork!

It's here! Darlyne Merkel's jaw-dropping aerial photo is now a 1,000-piece puzzle! It looks challenging, but oh so lovely!


New books! Come up to the visitor center to check them out or take a look on-line if you'd prefer.


CNMA Member Survey

Hi! We want to hear from you!

I'm curious about your thoughts related to CNMA.

If you have time and interest to answer any of these questions, please send me an e-mail with your responses!

  1. Why are you a member of CNMA?
  2. What would you like to see accomplished by CNMA?
  3. Greatest strengths of CNMA?
  4. Are there any improvements you'd like to see from CNMA?

You are always welcome to e-mail or call me. I'd also enjoy conversation over a cup of coffee (virtually or socially-distanced), so feel free to reach out anytime!


Johanna or 970-858-3617 ext.307

Thanks to all our CNMA members and corporate sponsors! We really appreciate all of your support!

CNMA Staff and Board

John Lintott, Johanna van Waveren, Linda Saturno, Camille Jestrovich, Nicole Gutentag, and Carol Dominguez- Staff

Ken Kreie, Mark Swain, Lori Franks, Melinda Shishim, Joel Bechtel, Carl Jacobson, Debbie Kovalik, Dave Conner, and Jesse Scott- Board

Colorado National Monument Association  |  1750 Rimrock Dr.

970-858-3617 |