Lin Ottinger: Still rocking at 92

Moab legend Lin Ottinger shared stories of his life exploits before an audience of over 70 people on Tuesday, Nov. 19, at the Moab Museum. Young and old piled into the newly renovated facility. The crowd laughed at Ottinger’s jokes, heartily applauded his original poetry, and learned how he fell in love with Moab.

lin ottinger
Lin Ottinger shares his life story during a recent Tuesday’s at the Museum event. Photo courtesy of Anthony Militano

Ottinger’s journey started in Tennessee in November of 1927. In his youth he had a craving for collecting rocks, arrowheads and other artifacts. As a young man, Ottinger also discovered he had a flair for entrepreneurship, and people would pay top dollar for his various collections. Ottinger and his mother moved to Oregon during World War II.

Ottinger came of age in the 1940s and he did logging work in Washington, Oregon and California. He had a stint with the Army Corp of Engineers and he prospected for uranium in Wyoming and Montana. Ottinger married after he got out of the Army and in the 1950s he found himself at a rock show in Boise, Idaho where, amazingly, his Moab story began

At that show, Ottinger saw an attractive, radioactive piece of uranium ore. He was told the hot rock was from Kane Creek, in Moab. Ottinger and his family were in the process of moving to California and he decided to visit southern Utah on his way. The Moab bug bit. Ottinger and his family never made it to California and the self-trained naturalist, paleontologist and geologist evolved into the Moab icon that we know today.

Ottinger has made some important scientific discoveries over the years. He contributed to the discovery of several new dinosaur species, including Iguanodon ottingerei, which bears his name.

In the early 1970s, Ottinger and his son discovered human remains at a former mine near Moab. The skeletons were dubbed ‘Malachite Man’ (also know as Moab Man) because of their greenish tint.

In the late ’70s and in the ’80s, Ottinger operated a tour company. He ran a fleet of custom Volkswagen vans that carried countless numbers of tourists to see the wonders of southeastern Utah. “”I’m probably the first and last person to drive on top of Gemini Bridge,” Ottinger said with a laugh.

Ottinger has owned the Moab Rock Shop since 1960, which is part museum, part souvenir shop.

At 92, Ottinger still has a zest for life, exploration and adventure. He said he is still enchanted by Canyonlands. He is still digging up rocks, polishing gems and hunting for dinosaur bones. “I’m still doing it,” the local character remarked to a quiet, attentive audience at the Moab Museum. “I’m still doing it,” he reiterated.