Our 2021 Road Trip #37: The Oversize Otter and His Feathered Friends

Otto the Big Otter!

In the proud tradition of other famous otters like Emmet Otter, one-half of Daxter, and Mrs. Otterton from Zootopia, we give you…Otto!

North Dakota may have entertained us with their trifecta of World’s Largest animals, but they’re hardly the only state with titanic bragging rights. The fun with flesh-‘n’-blood wildlife didn’t end when we left Yellowstone, either.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. We were each raised in a household that couldn’t afford annual out-of-state family vacations. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. Eventually we tired of some of our self-imposed limitations and figured out how to leave the comforts of home for the chance to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

Technically not even 2020 stopped us. We played by the new rules of the interim normal and wandered Indiana in multiple directions as safely as we could. This year the long-awaited vaccines arrived. For 2021 we agreed we had to go big. Our new primary objective was Yellowstone National Park, 1500 miles from Indy…

DAY EIGHT: Friday, July 2nd.

After a mostly harmless night and morning in Fargo (more about that in later chapters), we got a somewhat late start after taking care of business…


…then headed off to a return engagement with Minnesota, among my favorite states from our past vacations. An hour southeast of our hotel, we detoured into the city of Fergus Falls. Once the childhood stomping grounds of Academy Award-winning special effects wizard Richard Edlund, Fergus Falls takes its position as the official seat of Otter Tail County quite seriously. Hence the giant otter in our lead photo.

Otto the Big Otter is forty feet of concrete-on-metal executed in 1972 by high schoolers in honor of the Fergus Falls centennial. To this day he stands in Adams Park along the shore of Grotto Lake, where he isn’t the only nonhuman resident that you can’t possibly overlook.

Otto the Big Otter!

Otto is surrounded by sand and basically acts as a jungle gym for local kids. Getting a shot of him alone was impossible.

Otto the Big Otter!

It’s a little cuter when real animals shove their snout toward a camera. Otto does try.

Angel of Hope Memorial Park.

Next to Otto is Angel of Hope Memorial Park, which per their website “provide[s] a place of comfort and hope to parents and family members who grieve the loss of a child.”

Grotto Lake!

Grotto Lake extends southwest of Otto’s position, where you’d think he might have the place to himself…

Grotto Lake Rookery!

…but truth be known, we actually didn’t see him at first. When we pulled up to the parking area, the first things we noticed were the birds. A lot of birds.

goose army advances!

On the ground, a gaggle of geese acted as security for the even larger crowd behind them…

Fergus Falls rookery!

…a full-on rookery, divided between white egrets and black cormorants like they’re the Jets and the Sharks in detente.


I’m not sure we’ve seen AN egret before, let alone many egrets necessitating a lookup of what you call a group of them. The internet offers at least seven different answers, which means there’s no right answer. So I’m calling them an echelon of egrets.

egrets closeup!

I tried checking whether we’ve posted pics of egrets in the past, but the search results also included every use of “regret”, of which I’ve apparently had a few hundred over the past nine years.


I can definitely confirm this is MCC’s first sighting of cormorants. Technically that makes this a milestone entry. How keen.

cormorants hiding!

Some shyer cormorants could not be reached for comment or poses.

egrets and cormorants mingling!

Ebony and ivory, living together in perfect harmony.

geese panhandling!

Meanwhile below, the geese still want attention. We have geese back home in our neighborhood. We’re not fans.

nature cameramen!

A bit farther down, the geese swarmed around these cameramen, whom we gave up for dead as we left. R.I.P. those guys.

Otter Tail County Historical Museum!

On our way back to I-94 we stopped briefly at the Otter Tail County Historical Society. Not to go inside, mind you…

otter and butterfly bicycle rack!

…or to glimpse their otter-themed bicycle rack with a bonus butterfly on top…

giant goose!

…but rather their slightly giant goose sculpture, a modest sidekick to Otto down the road.

giant goose over flowers!

Or you can change angles and watch him soar over a pretty flower bed…


…for a flourish of flashy flora to follow those fabricated fauna.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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