Table Rock (Ada County, Idaho)

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Boise as seen from Table Rock, 2017.
Day hikers approaching the cross
Boise is located in the United States
Location in the United States
Boise is located in Idaho
Location in Idaho

Table Rock is a mountain pillar[1] in the western United States, located just south-east of downtown Boise, Idaho, in the foothills of the Boise Range of the Rocky Mountains. Its summit elevation of 3,650 feet (1,115 m) above sea level is 900 feet (275 m) above the city center.

Located between downtown Boise and the foothills, table rock is a rock surface with multiple caves and ledges and overlooks the treasure valley area, which makes it a safe yet adventurous location for people of all ages.[2]

An illuminated[3] sixty-foot (18 m)[4] white cross[5] at its summit has been the subject of a lawsuit[6] involving the separation of church and state (the cross itself stands on four square feet (0.4 m2) of land sold to the Jaycees for $100 in 1972, hence it stands on private property).[7] 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 State Penitentiary which offers easy access[8] to panoramic views of the Treasure Valley, Owyhee Mountains, and the Boise Foothills themselves.

In 2016, illegal fireworks usage on Table Rock shortly after midnight on June 30 initiated a 2,500-acre (10 km2) wildfire.[9][10]


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.[11]

To this date, no public attributions of any archaeological or cultural importance have been made to the site, despite its well-known prehistorical importance.

The Cross[edit]


The cross that stands on top of Table Rock has had a volatile history over the last 63 years.

The controversy began in 1956, when the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) built the cross on what was then Department of Correction land. At the time, the Department of Correction owned a 109-acre (44 ha) tract that included the bluff of Table Rock.

In 1970, the Jaycees submitted a request to the Board of Correction on June 10 for the purchase a 44-by-70-foot (13 by 21 m) parcel of land that would surround the land around the cross.

A rear view of the cross, which is illuminated nightly
by inset LEDs

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 one hundred dollars. The sale of the land was advertised in the Idaho Statesman, Boise's daily newspaper, weekly for six weeks. The Jaycees and a man named Paul Kimball signed up as bidders, though Kimball did not place a bid.

The land was sold to the Jaycees for $100, and 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 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.

Building the Cross[edit]

The idea for putting the cross on Table Rock came from a TV program titled "This Is Your Life". The Jaycees asked volunteers to build the cross. The Jaycees club's original goal in building the cross was to promote Christianity as well as taking a stand against communism in the mid 50's. $880 was raised to fund the project. Dick Wilcolm, Rich Jordan, and Chet Sawyer were the three volunteers that dug the hole and placed the cross in the ground. The original cross required $60 a month to power the lights that illuminated the cross, however in 2011 the lights were changed to LED lights cutting the price down to $20.[12][13]

The Final Result[edit]

The final cross is 4,500 pounds, 6 stories tall, and contains 2,600 LED lights. The cross sits 3,629 feet above sea level.[14]

Hiking Table Rock[edit]

Table Rock is a popular hiking spot for residents of the Boise area as well as for tourists. The Table Rock trail is 3.7 miles long and has an elevation gain of 895 feet. The trail begins at the old Boise Penitentiary and loops through the Boise foothills. The trail on average takes one hour to hike, ending on top of Table Rock. The trail allows walkers, runners, bikers, horse back riding, and dogs on leashes. The trail itself is dirt with some sections being rock. The terrain surrounding the trail is sage brush, with an open view to the surrounding area. The difficulty of the trail is considered moderate, and contains easier paths on some difficult and steep sections. Besides the main trail there are also a few named and unnamed trails that branch off from the trail, providing hikers a longer trail if they want a longer experience. The trail is open from sunrise to sunset everyday of the week. Hiking is strongly discouraged in the colder months (December- March) as much of the dirt turns to mud. There is also a road that leads to the top for a driving option.[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Table Rock". Outdoor Project. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Sewell, Cynthia (2016-06-30). "Illegal fireworks spark 2,500-acre fire in East Boise Foothills". Idaho Statesman. Retrieved 2016-06-30.
  10. ^ Statesman Staff (2016-06-30). "Boise Foothills wildfire caused by fireworks". Idaho Statesman. Retrieved 2016-06-30.
  11. ^ "What Lies Beneath? Native American Tribes of the Boise, Idaho Archaeological Record And a Site in the Boise Foothills". BoiseBasinHistory. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  12. ^ "Boise the Great - Table Rock Overlook". Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  13. ^, Handmade Designs. "Table Rock Cross | Idaho Architecture Project". Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  14. ^, Handmade Designs. "Table Rock Cross | Idaho Architecture Project". Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  15. ^ Marchant, Scott. "Take a Hike to Tablerock". Boise Weekly. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  16. ^ "Table Rock Trail". Retrieved 2018-05-01.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°35′42″N 116°08′35″W / 43.595°N 116.143°W / 43.595; -116.143