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Initial Point

Where to start?

The "initial point" or starting point for all surveys in Idaho!

It all started in 1867 when Lafayette Cartee, the first surveyor general of the Idaho Territory, established the "initial point" on a volcanic hill that is visible from quite a distance. This 126-foot-high butte is what remains of a volcanic cinder cone with an elevation of 3,026 feet. Even though it is not that impressive now, geologists think that 1.3 million years ago lava pouring from the crater dammed the Snake River and caused the river to change course.

Surveyors from throughout Idaho use this point to establish land boundaries throughout the state. The surveyors' north-south meridian line runs from Initial Point straight north through the town of Meridian, which is how the city received its name.

Initial Point is about 9 miles south of Kuna, Idaho. A gravel road and then a 4WD road leads to the summit. When you reach the top of this butte, you will find an observation deck and a US Geological Survey marker. The Owyhee Mountains are to the southwest and Boise is to the northeast. Squaw Butte is directly to your north.

The old marker is on the left and the new marker in the observation platform is on the right:

Initial Point is part of the Western Heritage Historic Byway, which includes Celebration Park, Swan Falls Dam, Snake River Canyon Overlook, Dedication Point, Initial Point, Silver Trail, Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Pioneer Cemetary, and Historic Kuna.

Getting There

From Boise:

Drive west on I-84. Take exit 44 to head South to I-69 toward Kuna. Follow I-69/S Meridian Road to Kuna. Then turn left onto South Swan Falls Road. Follow Swan Falls Road south about 7.8 miles from Kuna until you see the BLM sign pointing you to the very obvious butte.

LATITUDE/LONGITUDE: 43.3820346013445, -116.3982395312016


DISTANCE FROM STARTING POINT: Approximately 26 miles (one way from Boise)

TIME TO REACH: Approximately 35 minutes (one way)

ROAD SURFACE: Paved, gravel, dirt


FEES: None

RECOMMENDED VEHICLES: A high clearance AWD or 4WD to reach the summit

PET FRIENDLY: Yes, but recommended to be on leash

WHEN WE WENT: Early fall

TRAILHEADS: Hiking is available throughout the area.

CAMPGROUNDS: Not available at this site

SITE CONTACT INFO: Not available

CAUTIONS: Going up to the observation deck is very rocky; recommend wearing sturdy shoes and walk to the top.

I'm Here - Now What?

  • Photography

  • History lesson for kids!

  • Wildlife viewing - you are in the middle of the Birds of Prey!

  • Hiking

  • Biking

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