Table Rock (Ada County, Idaho)

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Day hikers approaching the cross.

Table Rock is a mountain pillar[1] located just south-east of downtown Boise, Idaho, United States in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains; an illuminated[2] 60-foot[3] cross[4] at its summit (3,629 ft) has been the subject of a lawsuit[5] involving the separation of church and state (the cross itself stands on four square feet of land illegally sold to the Jaycees for $100 in 1972, hence it stands on private property).[6] The legality of the land sale to the Jaycees is disputed, as the land board meeting minutes, which discuss the sale, indicate that the sale was structured specifically to sell the land to the Jaycees for the purpose of insulating the cross from legal attack. The sale included language that allowed the Land Board to reject any offers, with the stated intent of rejecting offers other than from the Jaycees. A prominent local landmark, it is a popular spot for day hiking from the Old Idaho State Penitentiary which offers easy access[7] to panoramic views of the Treasure Valley and the Owyhee Mountains as well as the Boise Foothills themselves. Shortly after midnight on June 30, 2016 illegal fireworks usage on Table Rock initiated a 2,500 acre wildfire.[8] [9]


Table Rock was sacred to the Northern Shoshone, who used the high plateau, numerous caves, and nearby hot springs as a ceremonial meeting place. Artifacts have been found in the course of the construction of nearby subdivisions, including obsidian bi-face knives of varying sizes; the site and its surroundings were also used as burial grounds. [10] To this date, no public attributions of any archeological or cultural importance have been made to the site, despite its well-known prehistorical importance. Bafflingly, public attention continues to center on the presence of religious iconography on the butte, as opposed to preserving any knowledge of actual historical or anthropological importance.

The Cross[edit]

The cross that stands on top of Table Rock has had a volatile 60 plus year history.

The controversy began in 1956 when the Junior Chamber of Commerce, or Jaycees, built the cross on what was then Department of Correction land. At the time the Department of Correction owned a 109-acre tract that included the bluff of Table Rock.

On June 10, 1970, the Jaycees submitted a request to the Board of Correction for the purchase a 44-foot-by-70-foot parcel of land that would surround the land around the cross.

On June 25, 1971, the Correction Board deemed the desired land surplus and turned it over to the Idaho Department of Lands. Idaho Board of Land Commissioners records reveal that because the requested land was on the very edge of Table Rock’s ledge, the Board of Correction did not feel it would negatively impact the surrounding state owned land.

Sale of the land was the responsibility of the Land Board. In November 1971, an auction was held for the sale of the land with the appraised price of $100.00. The sale of the land was advertised in the The Idaho Statesman weekly for a period of six weeks. The Jaycees and a man named Paul Kimball signed up as bidders, though Kimball did not actually place a bid.

The land was sold to the Jaycees for $100.00. From then on the cross has been considered to be on private property.

On December 16, 1994, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) penned a letter to the Land Board asserting the sale of the parcel of land was both unconstitutional and a violation of state law. The letter stated the Land Board had taken the liberty of refusing bids other than the Jaycee’s. It also accused the Land Board of restricting media coverage, which they claimed had left the general public in the dark. In March 1995 Land Board members voted and rejected the ACLU’s request to void the sale.

Controversy escalated in November 1999 when (self-described) atheist human rights activist Rob Sherman gave a speech at BSU claiming the Jaycees were a “bunch of criminals” and threatened action to bring the cross down. The dispute resulted in over 10,000 people participating in a march from the Boise Depot to the Statehouse to save the Table Rock cross.

REFERENCES: The Idaho Statesman, November 28, 1999. "Cross Parcel Sold Surplus" by Tim Jackson, and The Idaho Statesman, December 5, 1999. "Outside Treat Spurs Thousands to Stand Up for Table Rock Cross" by Dan Popkey.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Table Rock
A rear view of the cross, which is illuminated nightly by inset LEDs.
A rear view of the cross, which is illuminated nightly by inset LEDs. 
Table Rock from the parking lot of the defunct Idaho State Penitentiary, itself a tourist destination.
Table Rock from the parking lot of the defunct Idaho State Penitentiary, itself a tourist destination. 
The Table Rock Fire at 5:24 a.m. on S. Federal Way just east of the Bunting Memorial Scenic Overlook; Table Rock is burning on the left. 
The aftermath of the Table Rock Fire. This video was taken from the Bunting Memorial Scenic Overlook on S. Federal Way the day after the fire. 

Coordinates: 43°35′42″N 116°08′34″W / 43.5948900°N 116.1428921°W / 43.5948900; -116.1428921