Monday, August 31, 2009

Idaho's Gems: The Table Rock Cross

The Table Rock Cross -- visible for miles at night -- has graced the Boise Foothills for half a century. It was built by the Jaycees in 1956 on what was then Idaho Department of Corrections land. In the early '70s, the Jaycees had the foresight to purchase the small parcel of land on which the cross stands. In 1999, some idiot atheist from Chicago had the temerity to launch a campaign to have the cross torn down, but succeeded only in rallying public support for the cross. Little white crosses sprouted up all over the place. The governor declared November 27, 1999 "Table Rock Cross Day," and ten thousand people marched down Capital Boulevard to support the cross. Ten years later, the cross is still there.

You can drive all the way up to the Table Rock Cross. The road starts behind St. Luke's Hospital and winds through an affluent neighborhood in the east Boise Foothills. A one-lane dirt road -- much improved over the last few years, but still a little hair-raising -- takes you the last half-mile up to the cross. This is a view of the cross from the point where the pavement ends and the dirt road begins.

The cross is beautiful from a distance, but the face of it looks a little beat-up on closer inspection. It is made of steel painted white, and stands about 60 feet high. The illumination is provided by flourescent tubes. Some of the glass panels in front of the lights are missing.

This is a close-up of the works, at the point where the power lines carry the juice to the lights. Although it is obviously daylight at the time this picture was taken, the lights are on.

Table Rock itself is a place rich in history, tradition and natural resources. Red sandstone quarried from Table Rock was used to build, among other things, the Statehouse, St. John's Cathedral, and the old Penitentiary. Since it commands wide views for many miles around -- a part of which view is pictured below -- the place served the Indians as a natural lookout. When you go up to Table Rock and listen to the silence, it is not hard to understand why the Indians would consider the place sacred and use it as a burial ground. There could be no more appropriate setting for a cross.

Of course, there are other traditions associated with Table Rock. Kids of all ages have been partying, smashing beer bottles and leaving their marks at Table Rock for generations. With bits of broken brown glass adding to the roughness of the terrain, it is not a place you want to go barefoot. These are some of the graffiti-ized boulders right over the edge of the Rock.

This is a view from above of the big "B" for Boise below the cross, partially visible in the first picture above. People come around and paint it different colors from time to time, which doesn't bother the city authorities, who view it as a tradition. Usually it is painted orange, as Boise State University's school colors are blue and orange. Right now it looks red -- maybe an unsuccessful attempt at orange?

For 53 years, the Table Rock Cross has withstood storms, both meteorological and political. It is a beacon of hope to believers, and a rebuke to the unbelievers who have tried unsuccessfully to have it destroyed. Let's hope it continues for at least another 53 years.


  1. We have a similar cross just up the road here in Sparks. And I thought painting letters on hillsides was just a Nevada thing.

    (Boise State is so going down this year! Go Pack! ;-))

  2. What a glorious beacon, shining out for believers, and rebuking the unbelievers.

    The Jaycees "foresight" was a marginally legal (but certainly successful) dodge to avoid the fact that an inappropriate religious monument had been erected on public land.

    So hallelujah. I'm sure Jesus would be so proud to be able to have a standing rebuke.

  3. Sorry, Fortboise, but the First Amendment does not give you the right to be spared having to look at Christian symbols. Nor was it meant to set up atheism and irreligion as the law of the land.

    As for Jesus and rebukes, you despise what you do not even know. Jesus is Himself the greatest rebuke in history.

  4. Cyg, no skin off my nose -- I went to U of I. :P

  5. People from Timberline and Boise high schools paint the B blue (timberline high) and red (boise high).

    Im glad I know now that table rock was an indian burial ground because i just got told ppl were finding mysterious bones all around up there.

  6. As Stu said, I don't think these are intended to be BSU colors. It's a high school tradition. Yeah, when it's red is aweful orange-y though.