Everything from Indian legends to wildflowers will be discussed by experts when guided spring walks resume Sunday on the Upper and Lower Table rocks.

Everything from Indian legends to wildflowers will be discussed by experts when guided spring walks resume Sunday on the Upper and Lower Table rocks.

The free weekend hikes, which continue through May, are offered each spring by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and The Nature Conservancy.

"The Table Rocks figured as legendary landmarks for the Takelma Indians in stories that have been told for generations," said retired archaeologist Jeff LaLande, who will lead an April 14 walk on Lower Table Rock.

"The Table Rocks were important to them," added the retired archaeologist and historian for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. "Some of their main villages were very close to the rocks. It was part of their culture."

During the hike, LaLande will discuss the role of the rocks in relation to the Takelma culture, going back to the dawn of time and up through the Rogue River Indian Wars of the early 1850s.

"It will be a super-brief history of the valley, focusing on the Table Rocks," he said, noting it will include a discussion of edible and useful plants as well as the native people's land management technique of regularly using fire to manage the land.

When BLM botanist Marcia Wineteer leads a walk on May 5, she will focus on the more than 75 species of wildflowers found on the Table Rocks, including the dwarf woolly meadow foam, a plant found only in the area.

"April and May are the best times to go if you are looking for wildflowers," she said. "Probably the peak time for wildflowers is the third or four week in April, but they put on a pretty good show in April or May."

Although she hasn't been up on the flat rocks yet this spring, reports indicate the wildflowers are nearly on schedule, she said.

"They might be a little bit delayed," she said, although noting they are only about a week behind, if that. "Last year they were delayed a couple of weeks by the weather."

The spring wonders already blooming will likely include the southern Oregon buttercup, piper's lomaitium, fawn lilies and spring gold, she said.

"Just don't pick the wildflowers, stay on the trail and watch out for the poison oak and ticks," she advised hikers.

In addition to a myriad of wildflowers, there are also vernal pools teeming with life, various creatures to see along the way and a spectacular view of the Rogue Valley.

Research by the Oregon Department of Geology indicates the twin mesas are what remain from a 7-million-year-old eruption of Olson Mountain, an extinct shield volcano immediately east of what is now Lost Creek Reservoir. A shield volcano spreads lava across the ground rather than spewing it out of a cone. The Table Rocks are the last remnants of lava that once coated that portion of the valley floor, scientists say.

The free hikes are three to five miles long on a moderate grade and last three to five hours. Participation is limited to 30 individuals per hike, unless otherwise noted. To reserve a space on a hike, call 541-618-2200.

No drinking water is available. Hikers should dress appropriately and are advised to bring a lunch and water. Restrooms are located at both trailheads. Dogs are not allowed on the trails.

The BLM owns 1,280 acres on the Table Rocks, which were designated as areas of critical environmental concern in 1984. The Nature Conservancy established a nature preserve at Lower Table Rock 30 years ago and acquired 1,710 acres adjacent to BLM lands in 2009.

The weekend hike schedule can be checked out at www.nature.org/trhikes.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.