Lower Table Rock (Medford, Oregon) 21-Mar-2015

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon

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,

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Starting up the trail

with an occasional pine tree included for variety,

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Farther up the trail

up through more oaks heavy with lichen,

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Lichen clings to every oak tree

then into a black oak and madrone mixed woodland community,

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
An avenue of madrones

then a chaparral community (mainly impenetrable buckbrush, Ceanothus),

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
An avenue of buckbrush

before popping out on the remarkably flat top of the plateau – so flat that it was used as an informal landing area until 1990.

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
The old landing strip on top of the Rock

There were days earlier this year when the valley fog rose up high enough to cut visibility across the plateau to near zero,

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Hikers in the Mist

and the sun had to work hard to burn it off,

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
The sun starts to part the mist
Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
A web gathers the Mist

so we could get the big view of Mount McLoughlin.

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
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,

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
The Rock is a plateau formed by basalt

and of the Bear Creek and Rogue Valleys,

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Looking south: Mount McLoughlin on the horizon, the Rogue River below

and, if you’re really lucky, of one of the red-tailed hawks that perch and nest on the cliffs.

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Hawk in the bushes

Vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi), federally listed as threatened, inhabit the seasonally-formed vernal pools found on the top of both rocks.

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Vernal pool
Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Vernal pool
Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Vernal pool

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.

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Henderson’s Fawn Lily
Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Henderson’s Fawn Lily
Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Goldfields
Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
A field of Goldfields
Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Manzanita
Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Red Bells (Fritillaria recurva)
Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Buckbrush (Don’t ever try to hike through it!)
Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
A field of Popcorn Flowers
Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
The odd mushroom

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.

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
Touch me. Go on, touch me…and experience contact dermatitis for yourself!

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! 😀

Lower Table Rock Medford Oregon
The simple trail to Lower Table Rock

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