Boise Places Worth Seeing

Initial Point - Idaho's Fortress of Solitude

This semi-famous local destination is for all the diehard history buffs or wannabe land surveyors out there. But even if you're not in either of these groups, you still might find it worth a visit if you're heading toward Swan Falls Dam or parts unknown in the South Ada desert. It has a great view from the top, it's easy to get to, and you'll probably be the only people there, which is more than I can say for some of the more popular family excursions.

So what exactly is this geographical curiosity, and why is it important? Let me explain.

Initial Point is a marker on top of a butte 8.5 miles south of Kuna, and that very marker serves as the initial survey point for all the land surveys in Idaho. That means that if you've ever bought land in this state, the exact coordinates of the property's borders were determined by that single point on top of that lonely desert butte. The spot was chosen in 1867 by Lafayette Cartee, Idaho's first surveyor general. If the name Lafayette Cartee sounds familiar, it might be because he is still Boise's most infamous hog killer.

Getting to Initial Point is easy these days, even with a team of horses. From the thriving metropolis of Kuna, take Swan Falls Road about 68 furlongs south until you see the sign for Initial Point. The butte is a mile or so off the paved road on a good gravel road that turns to a good dirt road about halfway to the butte. As you approach the butte, look at the top and you'll be able to see the observation point's railings.

As you get to the base of the butte, the road forks. The right fork widens into a camping, keg party, or NRA hoedown area before turning into a network of desert trails. The left fork narrows into a rocky jeep trail and winds up to the top of the butte. Unless you're young and/or stupid, you'll want to park where the road forks and walk up to the top, which will take men, women, and children less than ten minutes.

If you decide the ten minute walk is just too much work and your four wheel drive can easily make it up the hill, good luck with that. You might make it unscathed, but then again you might just lose your muffler.

At the top, there's a formal observation deck that contains a silver-colored benchmark sunk in concrete. This marker indicates the reference point for all land surveys in Idaho, just as it has since 1867.

The silver marker itself is a replacement that was installed during the point's rededication in 2008. Isn't it impressive in its shininess?

The north-south line present on the marker indicates the orientation of Idaho's principle meridian, which runs south to the Nevada border and north to the Canadian border. Along the way north, the line passes through the city of Meridian, providing the obvious namesake for Boise's closest suburb. There's even a historical marker in Meridian's Storey Park that says just that.

When you're done admiring the marker and the surrounding masonry, take a second to look at the two mountain ranges that are separated by the Snake River Plain. You can't beat the view. I'd venture to say that if the wind wasn't always blowing 20 mph on top of the butte, and if there was a modicum of shade somewhere close by, it would make a good spot for a picnic.

Particulars
Place worth seeing: Initial Point
Where: In the desert 8.5 miles south of Kuna
Easily found off Swan Falls Road

View Larger Map
Hours: Dawn to dusk, year round
Cost: Free
Website: None
Fun fact: Rumors persists that Butch Otter learned how to use a gun by shooting at the whistle pigs and Democrats that frequent the area around Initial Point.