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Upper and Lower Table Rock

Upper and Lower Table Rock
A gray shaded relief map showing the horseshoe shapes of the rocks, with respective labels and elevations
Terrain of the Table Rocks. Upper Table Rock is on the right, Lower Table Rock is on the left.
Country United States
State Oregon
County Jackson County
Nearest city Central Point
For public Yes
Visitation Approx. 45,000 annually
Easiest access Trail
Topo map United States Geological Survey Sams Valley
A map of Oregon showing different counties with a red dot in the southwestern section
Location in Oregon, in the United States
Wikimedia Commons:
Website: Upper and Lower Table Rock

Upper Table Rock and Lower Table Rock are two prominent volcanic plateaus located just north of the Rogue River in Jackson County, Oregon. Created by an andesitic lava flow approximately seven million years ago and shaped by erosion, they now stand about 800 feet (240 m) above the surrounding Rogue Valley. The Table Rocks are jointly owned; The Nature Conservancy is responsible for 3,591 acres (1,453 ha), while the Bureau of Land Management is responsible for 1,280 acres (518.0 ha).

The Takelma tribe of Native Americans inhabited the Table Rocks for at least 15,000 years prior to European American settlement. Starting in the mid-19th century during a gold rush, the settlers forced the Takelma away from the Table Rocks and into reservations. The surrounding area was quickly developed. The Table Rock post office was established in 1872, an airstrip was built atop Lower Table Rock in 1948, and a very high frequency omni-directional range (VOR) aviation tower was constructed on Upper Table Rock in the 1960s. The Table Rocks were not protected until the 1970s.

The rocks are home to over 70 species of animals and 340 species of plants, which includes over 200 species of wildflowers. Vernal pools atop the plateaus fill during the rainy season in winter and spring because the andesite is impermeable. The Dwarf Woolly Meadowfoam, a species of wildflower, grows around these pools, and is endemic to the rocks. The pools are also one of only a few places where the federally threatened species of fairy shrimp, Branchinecta lynchi, can be found. To protect these and other threatened species, the Bureau of Land Management has listed the rocks as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern since 1984.

The Table Rocks are one of the most popular hiking locations in the Rogue Valley, with over 45,000 visitors annually. Two trails, Lower Table Rock Trail and Upper Table Rock Trail, were cut across the plateaus' slopes in the early 1980s by the Youth Conservation Corps, Boy Scouts, and the Oregon Department of Forestry. This effort was coordinated by John Ifft, a forester for the Medford Office of the BLM.

The plateaus are named for their relatively flat tops. Upper and Lower refer to their location along the Rogue River, not their height. Upper Table Rock, 2,091 feet (637.3 m) above sea level at its highest point, is located upstream, while Lower Table Rock is farther downstream, with an elevation of 2,049 feet (624.5 m).


  • Geology and climate 1
  • Human history 2
  • Ecological habitats 3
    • Oak savanna 3.1
    • Chaparral 3.2
    • Mixed woodland 3.3
    • Mounded prairie and vernal pools 3.4
  • Trails 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8

Geology and climate

Vegetation in the foreground, with a flat area scattered with buildings farther away. The plateau is far away, with mountains by the horizon.
Lower Table Rock across the Rogue Valley from Roxy Ann Peak

Starting approximately 40 million years ago in the middle Eocene,[1] a braided river system called the "Ancestral Rogue River" flowed through the region where the Rogue Valley is now carved.[2] For about 2.1 million years,[1] the river deposited what is now known as the Payne Cliffs Formation by laying down a thin conglomerate, followed by arkosic sandstone and siltstone.[2][3][4] Between 10 and 20 million years ago, the uplift that created the nearby Klamath Mountains caused an incision that formed the Rogue River valley.[3] Vertical erosion, or downcutting of the Rogue River continues to keep pace with the recent uplift, with about 690 feet (210 m) of erosion occurring in the past seven million years.[5]

Approximately seven million years ago in the upper Miocene, a 44-mile (71 km) long trachyandesitic lava flow that likely came from Olson Mountain near present-day Lost Creek Lake flowed down the Ancestral Rogue River and its tributaries and spread throughout the valley.[5][6] This lava formed a hard cap over the Payne Cliffs Formation.[5] At Lost Creek Lake, the lava attained its maximum thickness of 730 feet (220 m) and thinned to about 100 to 200 feet (30 to 61 m) to the north of Medford.

Since the Olson eruption, the Rogue River has [9]

The Table Rocks offer an example of [9][12][13]

Upper Table Rock from across a field of grass, looking into the central bowl. It rises steeply from the surrounding valley to its flat top.
Upper Table Rock from the Denman Wildlife Area

Two caves and two former gold mines are located at the base of the andesite cap on Upper Table Rock. The caves were created by natural fractures in the cap, and the gold mines were excavated by prospectors searching for gold in the 19th century. Three are large enough to walk into, with an average width of 8 feet (2 m), while one is a small pit, dropping 30 feet (9.1 m) vertically into a pond of water.[12]

Human history

Humans have lived in the Table Rock area for at least 15,000 years, based on the age of Clovis points that were discovered nearby.[14] The region surrounding the Table Rocks was home to the Takelma people. They gathered food such as acorns and tarweed seeds, and caught salmon in the nearby Rogue River. The Takelma also used deer hides for clothing.[15] They had several names for the rocks, including Di'tani ("rock above"), Titanakh ("little Indian plums"), and possibly Kwenphunkh.[16][17] The first use of the names Upper Table Rock and Lower Table Rock is unknown, however the first recorded use was by mountain man James Clyman in 1845.[16][18]

A straight dirt path leading off into the distance with brown weeds surrounding it
The airstrip on Lower Table Rock

Some of the first European Americans to visit the area were [9][16] In 1841 the United States Exploring Expedition passed through the Rogue Valley. Neither Ogden nor the expedition mentioned the Table Rocks.[16] The gold rush of the early 1850s brought many emigrants to the area, and Table Rock City (later renamed Jacksonville) was established several miles south of the rocks.[19] The sudden increase of settlers created conflicts with the Rogue River Indians. These conflicts turned into warfare, and several treaties were signed in an attempt to end the hostilities.[20][21] In June 1851, soldiers of the United States Army led by Major Philip Kearny attacked the Takelma near Lower Table Rock, but the Takelma were prepared. One soldier died, and three others were injured. Major Kearny returned with volunteers from Yreka soon after, accompanied by Oregon Territory delegate Joseph Lane. The ensuing Battle of Table Rock lasted 10 days, and 30 Takelma were imprisoned.[22]

In September 1853, the Native Americans signed a peace treaty with Joseph Lane, and the [9][25] while the inhabitants were moved to other reservations.[20][26] In January 1856, 400 Native Americans were moved to the Grande Ronde Reservation, 263 miles (423 km) to the north.[27][28] Most of the rest were relocated to the Siletz Reservation in May.[27]

Development of the area commenced immediately and in 1872 the Table Rock Post Office was established just south of Upper Table Rock and east of Lower Table Rock.[25][29] The Table Rock School District was created in 1879.[19] In 1895 the post office's name was changed to Tablerock, and it was closed in 1906.[25][29] Telephones arrived in 1908, and the Table Rock Mutual Telephone Company was established. The school district was merged with Central Point's district in 1948.[30]

In November 1948, John Day, a local cattle rancher and developer, built a 34-mile (1.2 km) airstrip on the surface of Lower Table Rock to impress visiting celebrities from [9][33]

Lower Table Rock from across a field. Similar to Upper Table Rock, it rises steeply to its very flat top.
Lower Table Rock from Kirtland Road to the south

The Federal Aviation Administration has operated a 25-foot (7.6 m) tall very high frequency omni-directional range (VOR) aviation tower on Upper Table Rock since the 1960s.[34][35] The tower's purpose is to broadcast precise coordinates to nearby aircraft to assist in navigation. The facility is closed to the public due to the threat to the safety of the occupants of the aircraft. However, the structure sustained $40,000 worth of damage in 1997 when vandals unsuccessfully attempted to steal aluminum antennas from the 15-foot (4.6 m) tall fiberglass shell on the roof of the building.[35]

The Nature Conservancy became concerned about [9][38] In May 2009, The Nature Conservancy bought another 1,710 acres (692.0 ha) of land on the Table Rocks for $3.9 million, ending private ownership of the rocks.[39]

Ecological habitats

Tan colored lizard in grass near a rock. A 5-petaled yellow flower is directly above it.
Western Fence Lizard on Lower Table Rock. A Western Buttercup is blooming above it.

Four overlapping ecological regions have been identified on the Table Rocks, with considerable differences in the variety of wildlife found in each. From the outermost base of the rocks, three regions consisting of oak savanna, chaparral, and mixed woodland surround the relatively flat tops. The andesite cap is covered by the fourth region, mounded prairie. This region formed when the caps were slowly eroded by the freezing and thawing of water that seeped into the ground (ice erosion), which created layers of mounded soil.[40] Vernal pools fill in from October to June in the mounded prairie area due to the andesite's impermeability. The pools support species of plants and animals.

Over 340 species of plants grow on the rocks, including approximately 200 species of wildflowers.[8][41] Some of the most common wildflowers are [9][42] Camas and death camas also grow on the rocks. Camas produces an edible bulb, while death camas is poisonous and was used by the Takelma as an anesthetic.[43]

More than 70 species of animals are known to live on the Table Rocks.[9] Lizards such as the [9][45] Many species of birds live on the rocks.[46][47]

The Table Rocks experience a Mediterranean climate. The average wind speed in the area is less than 6 miles per hour (10 km/h), and the annual precipitation is approximately 18 inches (460 mm) due to the rain shadow created by the Klamath Mountains. It rarely snows in the winter.[16]

Oak savanna

Hemispherical clumps of small, white flowers with yellowish centers
Buckbrush in bloom on Lower Table Rock

Oak savanna is a type of [9][50]

Snakes such as the [9][46][47] The rocks are known to be the northernmost place Blue-gray Gnatcatchers inhabit.[36][51][52] Gall wasps live in this area, often creating galls in oak trees by injecting their larva into their leaves and branches.[4]


Chaparral is a type of [9][53][54] The rare Gentner's frittilary also grows in this region.[55]


Mixed woodland

The mixed woodland region is a dense forest with many species of trees, located near the tops of the plateaus. The forest [9][53]

Rodents such as the [9][47][58]

Mounded prairie and vernal pools

Vernal pool and mounded prairie on Lower Table Rock plateau. Mount McLoughlin can be seen in the background.

The mounded prairie region is located on top of the plateaus, characterized by many species grasses and wildflowers around the vernal pools, with mounds of soil created by erosion. The [9][36][52] They bloom for about ten days in April.[59] When filled in the winter and early spring, the pools are also a known habitat for the vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi), a threatened species.[60]

Two types of [9][47][61]


Gravel trail winding through thick vegetation.
Upper Table Rock Trail

The Table Rocks offer one of the most popular hiking locations in the Rogue Valley, with over 45,000 visitors annually.[28][38][62] Over 4,600 people per year participate in guided hikes through the Table Rock Environmental Education Program, hosted by the Bureau of Land Management and The Nature Conservancy.[63] Lower Table Rock features a walking trail, which climbs approximately 780 feet (240 m) to the top of the plateau over a distance of 1.75 miles (2.82 km).[64][65] It has eight along its length, explaining the history, flora, and fauna of the region.[55] Upper Table Rock also has a walking trail, 1.25 miles (2.01 km) long, ascending approximately 720 feet (220 m).[64][65] The trails are the most popular with hikers between March and May, when the wildflowers are in bloom. Another peak occurs in September through October.[55] Landmarks such as Mount McLoughlin, Mount Ashland, Roxy Ann Peak, and Pilot Rock are visible on clear days from the edge of the rocks.[64][65]

Several very tall columns of dark gray rock rising out of a forest
Several large andesite columns separating from Lower Table Rock

The Youth Conservation Corps, Boy Scouts, and the Oregon Department of Forestry built the trails leading to the tops of the Table Rocks in the early 1980s, around the same time the plateaus were being nominated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.[37][38] In June 1999, only two small trees were cut when Shady Cove contractor Randy Hodges rerouted a 34-mile (1.2 km) section of the Lower Table Rock trail to accommodate the growing number of visitors. The project involved decommissioning the old section, expanding the parking lot, and installing 2,200 feet (671 m) of new trail. Measures to protect the trail were implemented, such as installing rock waterbars and a layer of shale gravel over the clay.[66]

In 2005, a program to build an interpretive trail began on Lower Table Rock near the trailhead. Prior to construction, some persons with disabilities, children, or the elderly may have been prevented from using either of the Table Rocks due to the steep terrain and narrow paths. The finished project involved making a 500-foot (150 m) section of trail accessible and adding a 12-mile (0.80 km) long section of new trail for general public use.[55]

Both trails lead to spectacular views of the surrounding areas,[64] but have inherent dangers as well. The thick andesite caps are heavily eroded, leaving tall crumbling columns near their edges. At least six people have fallen from the Table Rocks since 2006,[67][68] including a man from Central Point who tumbled through a rock shaft on Lower Table Rock to his death in May 2007 and was not found for over nineteen months.[69] Another man from Murray, Utah fell 200 feet (61 m) from Lower Table Rock and died in September 2009.[67]

A large flat topped plateau with trees scattered on its flanks and farmland below it
A panorama of Upper Table Rock from Lower Table Rock

See also


  1. ^ a b Henderson & Surpless 2009.
  2. ^ a b Heller 1992, pp. 1095–1098.
  3. ^ a b c BLM, Geology.
  4. ^ a b c Bishop & Allen 2004, pp. 34–36.
  5. ^ a b c Hladky 1998.
  6. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, p. 33.
  7. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, p. 35.
  8. ^ a b c d Horn 2006, pp. 82–86.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Seevers & Borgias 1993.
  10. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, p. 1.
  11. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, p. 43.
  12. ^ a b Reyes et al. 1994, pp. 40–41.
  13. ^ Allen 2003.
  14. ^ BLM, Tribes.
  15. ^ See these interpretive signs: 1, 2.
  16. ^ a b c d e Reyes et al. 1994, p. 7.
  17. ^ Gray 1987, p. 76.
  18. ^ See this interpretive sign.
  19. ^ a b Reyes et al. 1994, p. 27.
  20. ^ a b c BLM, Takelma.
  21. ^ USFS, p. 1.
  22. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, pp. 20–21.
  23. ^ Oklahoma State University.
  24. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, p. 22; Friedman 1990, p. 568.
  25. ^ a b c McArthur & McArthur 2003, p. 712.
  26. ^ Oregon State Archives.
  27. ^ a b Reyes et al. 1994, pp. 24–25.
  28. ^ a b Fattig 2012.
  29. ^ a b GNIS 1994.
  30. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, p. 29.
  31. ^ a b Reyes et al. 1994, p. 30.
  32. ^ Miller 2008.
  33. ^ Oregon Department of Agriculture.
  34. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, p. 9.
  35. ^ a b Davis 1997.
  36. ^ a b c The Nature Conservancy, Table Rocks.
  37. ^ a b Reyes et al. 1994, p. 31.
  38. ^ a b c BLM, Welcome.
  39. ^ Fattig 2009.
  40. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, p. 79; BLM, Plants.
  41. ^ Pollock 2008.
  42. ^ Lorain 2004, p. 60.
  43. ^ Fattig 2008.
  44. ^ a b c Reyes et al. 1994, pp. 51, 54; BLM, Reptiles.
  45. ^ a b Reyes et al. 1994, p. 61.
  46. ^ a b c Reyes et al. 1994, pp. 64–67.
  47. ^ a b c d e BLM, Birds.
  48. ^ BLM, Fire.
  49. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, pp. 79–80; BLM, Oak Savanna.
  50. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, pp. 90, 93–94.
  51. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, p. 74.
  52. ^ a b Friedman 1990, p. 730.
  53. ^ a b Reyes et al. 1994, p. 80.
  54. ^ BLM, Chaparral.
  55. ^ a b c d BLM 2005.
  56. ^ BLM, Mixed Woodland.
  57. ^ a b Reyes et al. 1994, pp. 59–60; BLM, Mammals.
  58. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, pp. 66–67.
  59. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, p. 8.
  60. ^ BLM, Vernal Pools; The Nature Conservancy, Fairy Shrimp.
  61. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, pp. 69–73.
  62. ^ Reyes et al. 1994, p. 3.
  63. ^ BLM, Education.
  64. ^ a b c d BLM, Hiking.
  65. ^ a b c Lee 2008.
  66. ^ Fattig 1999.
  67. ^ a b Mail Tribune 2011.
  68. ^ Lemon 2007.
  69. ^ Burke 2009.


  • Bishop, Ellen; Allen, John (2004) [First published 1996]. Hiking Oregon's geology (2nd ed.). Seattle, Washington:  
  • Horn, Elizabeth (2006). Oregon's Best Wildflower Hikes. Englewood, Colorado: Westcliffe Publishers, Inc.  
  • Lorain, Douglas (2004). 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon. Seattle, Washington: The Mountaineers Books.  
  • Reyes, Chris; Kennedy, David; Capps, Gerard; Janes, Stewart; Latimer, Shane (1994). The Table Rocks of Jackson County: Islands in the Sky. Ashland, Oregon: Last Minute Publications.  
News articles
  • Burke, Anita (January 6, 2009). "Police identify Lower Table Rock body".  
  • Davis, Jim (November 25, 1997). "Unknown vandals knock out air traffic radar beacon". Mail Tribune (Medford, Oregon). Retrieved June 1, 2009. 
  • Fattig, Paul (June 24, 1999). "Table Rock hike improved". Mail Tribune (Medford, Oregon). Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  • Fattig, Paul (March 26, 2008). "Springtime on Table Rocks". Mail Tribune (Medford, Oregon). Retrieved June 17, 2009. 
  • Fattig, Paul (May 6, 2009). "Purchase ends private ownership of the Table Rocks". Mail Tribune (Medford, Oregon). Retrieved May 6, 2009. 
  • Fattig, Paul (May 18, 2012). "Cow Creek Band to sign Table Rocks agreement". Mail Tribune (Medford, Oregon). Retrieved June 13, 2012. 
  • "Hiker in critical condition after Table Rock fall". Mail Tribune (Medford, Oregon). February 8, 2011. Retrieved June 13, 2012. 
  • Lee, Mary (May 19, 2008). "Vertical Gain: 10 hikes to get your heart pumping". Mail Tribune (Medford, Oregon). Retrieved April 29, 2009. 
  • Lemon, Sarah (April 30, 2007). "A tragic reminder". Mail Tribune (Medford, Oregon). Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  • Miller, Bill (March 9, 2008). "History in the soles of your shoes". Mail Tribune (Medford, Oregon). Retrieved April 28, 2009. 
  • Pollock, Buffy (January 16, 2008). "Hiking the incredible Table Rocks". Joy Magazine (Medford, Oregon: Mail Tribune). Retrieved June 17, 2009. 
  • Allen, Cain (2003). "Table Rocks". Oregon History Project. Retrieved April 23, 2009. 
  • "Anthropogenic Fire".  
  • "Birds of the Table Rocks". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  • "Chaparral". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved April 24, 2009. 
  • "Dwarf meadowfoam (Limnanthes floccosa ssp. pumila)". Native Plant Conservation Program.  
  • "Environmental Education". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved September 2, 2009. 
  • "Fairy Shrimp Found on Southern Oregon Preserves".  
  • "Geology". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved April 24, 2009. 
  • "Hiking the Table Rocks". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved April 29, 2009. 
  • "Jacksonville".  
  • "Jacksonville's Historic Commercial Core".  
  • "Mammals of the Table Rocks". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved April 26, 2009. 
  • "Mixed Woodland". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved April 24, 2009. 
  • "Mounded Prairie/Vernal Pools". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved April 25, 2009. 
  • "Oak Savanna". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved April 24, 2009. 
  • "Plant Communities". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved May 15, 2009. 
  • "Reptiles and Amphibians of the Table Rocks". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved April 26, 2009. 
  • "Request to Open Indian Lands, 1857".  
  • "The Table Rocks". The Nature Conservancy. Retrieved December 23, 2013. 
  • "Treaty with the Rogue River, 1853".  
  • "Welcome to the Table Rocks". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved April 23, 2009. 
  • "What happened to the Takelma?". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved September 29, 2007. 
  • "Which tribes lived near the Table Rocks?". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved September 2, 2009. 
  • "East Fork of the Illinois River Watershed Analysis Social Module" (PDF).  
  • Gray, Dennis (1987). "The Takelma and Their Athapascan Neighbors" (PDF).  
  • Heller, Paul L.; Paul R. Renne, James R. O'Neil (December 1992). "River mixing rate, residence time, and subsidence rates from isotopic indicators: Eocene sandstones of the U.S. Pacific Northwest". Geology ( 
  • Henderson, Tiffany P.; Surpless, Kathleen DeGraaff (May 9, 2009). Provenance of the Eocene Payne Cliffs Formation, Southern Oregon (PDF). Cordilleran Section Meeting. 105th Annual Meeting. Kelowna, British Columbia:  
  • Hladky, Frank R. (July–August 1998). "Age, chemistry, and origin of capping lava at Upper Table Rock and Lower Table Rock, Jackson County, Oregon" (PDF). Oregon Geology ( 
  • "Lower Table Rock Accessible Interpretive Trail Environmental Assessment" (PDF).  
  • Seevers, Joan; Borgias, Darren (1993). "Upper and Lower Table Rocks, Jackson County" (PDF). Kalmiopsis. Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  • "Table Rock Post Office (historical)".  

External links

  • Media related to () at Wikimedia Commons
  • U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Upper Table Rock
  • U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Lower Table Rock
  • Upper Table Rock terrain map with trail elevation profile
  • Lower Table Rock Trails on YouTube
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