The Upper and Lower Table Rocks are located just north of Medford, Oregon and are well known for their vernal pools and Spring wildflower displays. They are also reserves for certain species of endangered wildflowers, especially the dwarf wooly meadowfoam (Limnanthes floccosa ssp. pumila), which grows nowhere else but on the top of the Table Rocks. Their respective trailheads are a short ways from Interstate-5, with ample parking (except possibly after 10:00AM on weekends) and pit toilets. The trails trails to the flowers are short (3 to 5 miles round-trip, with only 700 to 800 feet of elevation gain) and easy to follow. We’ve been doing Lower Table Rock (the longer hike of the two) periodically since we moved here, but I’ve held off doing a post until the start of the wildflower season – which is NOW, with its peak in April. The grass widows have come -and mostly gone – but a host of other species are starting to blossom. What follows is a composite of several trips to Lower Table during the past 3 months, including one from today.
The trail starts out through a white oak savannah community,
with an occasional pine tree included for variety,
up through more oaks heavy with lichen,
then into a black oak and madrone mixed woodland community,
then a chaparral community (mainly impenetrable buckbrush, Ceanothus),
before popping out on the remarkably flat top of the plateau – so flat that it was used as an informal landing area until 1990.
There were days earlier this year when the valley fog rose up high enough to cut visibility across the plateau to near zero,
and the sun had to work hard to burn it off,
so we could get the big view of Mount McLoughlin.
You can walk down the old runway – now just a wide dirt trail – to the southern tip of the rock, which gives you a good view of the basalt flows that form its eastern escarpment,
and of the Bear Creek and Rogue Valleys,
and, if you’re really lucky, of one of the red-tailed hawks that perch and nest on the cliffs.
Vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi), federally listed as threatened, inhabit the seasonally-formed vernal pools found on the top of both rocks.
The remarkable diversity of the Table Rocks includes a spectacular Spring wildflower display of over 75 species – not all of whom are out yet. Of those that are out, the following photos probably don’t do them justice.
And, last but not least, everyone’s favorite – Toxicodendron diversilobum – which grows lavishly all around the plateau and whose itchy presence encourages you to stay on established trails.
These are not long or hard hikes but are well worth the effort if you have an interest in wildflowers and have a couple of hours to spare while passing through the Medford area. Recommended for botanical enthusiasts! 😀