On this day in 1984, President Reagan signed the Oregon Wilderness Act, adding the Table Rock Wilderness to the National Wilderness System. It is the last large area—6,028 acres—of pristine forest land in the Molalla River drainage. Its steep, rugged terrain, towering basaltic cliffs, spectacular vistas, brilliant wildflowers, diverse wildlife and unique history combine to create a distinctive wilderness experience. A 16-mile system of trails, suitable for horse travel and hiking, extends along the prominent ridges within the Wilderness.
Table Rock Wilderness is part of an area described as the Old Cascades—or Cascade foothills—formed long before the snowcapped peaks of the high Cascade Range rose into the Oregon skyline. The vegetation of the Wilderness, and the surrounding area, is typical of the diverse landscapes of north Oregon’s Cascade foothills.
Visitors to Table Rock Wilderness often notice that the Wilderness is forested mostly with younger trees. These tall Douglas, noble, and pacific silver firs sprouted after several fires swept the area; the last in 1880. So complete was the destruction of these fires that only a few trees were left standing. Some of these can be seen today as charred rotting stumps, or as the ancient towering parents of today’s existing forest.
The forests surrounding Table Rock Wilderness are mostly private timberlands. Lumberjacks first entered the area in the 1930’s, and by the 1970’s had harvested most of the available mature timber. The forests visible today are mostly second growth ready for possible harvest early in the next century.
The High Ridge Trail is thought to have been established by Native Americans in prehistoric times to follow game, gather berries, and as a trade route to neighboring tribes. In the late 1800’s homesteaders and prospectors used the trail. Shortly after 1900 local residents traveled the route to reach Bagby Hot Springs, located near Bull of the Woods Wilderness in the Mount Hood National Forest.
For a great video of the area, visit http://youtu.be/bbdP81Pw1So