Just northwest of Medford, Oregon stand the Table Rocks. Familiarity can breed indifference. And, though the sight of two large mesas rising some 800 feet from the valley floor just off of Interstate 5 may awe the passing traveler, it is easy for the local who sees them regularly to forget that they are a unique treasure. They deserve attention. They provide pleasant hikes, fantastic views of the Rogue Valley, the Rogue River and the surrounding Cascade and Siskiyou mountains, and a unique display of wildflowers - there are over 200 varieties, including dwarf meadowfoam which only exists on the table rocks and blooms for about ten days in April.
The Table Rocks, Upper and Lower, and surrounding area were inhabited by the Takelma. This tribe of indigenous people did not last long once Caucasian settlers decided they wanted the Indian's land in the 1850s, a desire increased by the discovery of gold. There was a war known as the Rogue River Wars. The Takelma were briefly given a reservation near the base of Upper Table Rock, but were soon moved to other reservations on the northern coast of Oregon. There is little known about this tribe. But, we do know that the table rocks were special to them and played a part in their myths.
The Table Rocks and their nearby surroundings are both privately and publicly owned. They had no real protection until the 1970s. As a result there are some picturesque orchards and fields skirting the bases of each plateau as well as some industrial and residential blight. The Rogue Valley south of the rocks is a large flat expanse. I have enjoyed many beautiful moments at the Medford Airport – out on the tarmac – in the industrial area of White City watching the sun rise, and walking in the fields of the Denman Wildlife Area (just west of White City and southeast of the Table Rocks). I can imagine how it may have been before modern development devastated it. One can still look past the blight and see the beauty that remains.
Lower Table Rock would be the first outing for Ian and I on our summer seize 2010 adventure. I had hiked Lower Table Rock two times before. I knew it was a quick, relatively easy hike – 5.4 miles, gaining 780 feet, and another mile across the plateau to the best view point. (The hike to Upper Table Rock is an easy 2.8-mile trip, gaining 720 feet) We made the hike in mid June, which was a good time for wildflowers. We also were able to see the vernal pools – the first time I had. Rain collects over the winter and spring months creating pools on the plateaus. These pools provide a habitat for a rich variety of short lived creatures including the vernal pool prairie shrimp. We had to watch out for the tiny little tree frogs so as not to step on them.
We hiked across the plateau in order to reach a good view of the Rogue Valley and Rogue River from 200 foot cliffs at the southern end of Lower Table Rock. From this point you have an excellent view of Mt. McLoughlin, Roxy Ann Peak, Pilot Rock, Mt. Ashland and Crater Lake Rim, to name a few of the sights. The whole excursion took about four hours.
Tips: To take what looks to be a very calm float down the Rogue past the rocks, one could put in at Touvelle State Park just off of Table Rock Rd: LINK
Also check out nearby Denman Wildlife Area: LINK
To find the Lower Table Rock trail head from Interstate 5 take exit 35 (just north of Central Point); drive north on Blackwell Rd (Hwy 99) for about 1 mile; turn right (east) onto Kirtland Rd, travel 4 miles; turn left (north) on Table Rock Rd and go another 4 miles; take a right (west) onto Wheeler Rd – this road curves to the right (north) – stay on it for half a mile and then take a left (west) onto Cornerstone Rd. This road leads into the trail head parking lot.
To find the Upper Table Rock trail head from the Lower Table Rock parking lot go back to Table Rock Road and turn right (south – back the way you came) go 2.5 mile; turn left (north) onto Modoc Rd and go1.5 miles; the trail head parking lot is on the left opposite an electric substation.