The third and last region for California’s public lands survey originated from an Initial Point in the northwest corner of the state, covering most of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. This relatively small region had its own survey due to the booming economy at the time (soon after the Gold Rush), centered around the port at Humboldt Bay. Because of the distance from the northern California’s Initial Point at Mount Diablo, and the slow northward progression of survey crews, there was a concern that local development in Humboldt would be stalled, since a completed federal survey was the basis by which land could be described and sold. Henry Washington, fresh from surveying the San Bernardino Meridian Initial Point, was summoned to establish the Humboldt Meridian in 1853. He selected a high point of land, and ran the baseline and meridian from there.
The Initial Point is on top of Mount Pierce, surrounded by land secured from local Indians in 1851, just two years before the survey, and now owned by lumber companies. The peak is forest service land, closed to the public, and is used as a local telemetry site. Though instructed to establsih the Initial Point on a mountaintop in order to be visible from great distances around, the hilly countryside and dense forests of the region make that impossible, so in retrospect there was little reason for the Initial Point to be so remote and inaccessible.
The Initial Point was cleaned up and restored by the BLM and the county surveyor’s office in 2003, the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the point. A rock with a commemorative plaque was added then as well.
As the mountaintop was further developed for telemetry, land was graded, eroding around the Initial Point. Sometime between 1949 and 1955 a concrete and stone retaining wall was constructed to stablilize the marker, by prison workers from San Quentin, on work detail with the California Division of Forestry.
Decorative pumice stone was added to allow drainage through it.
The center of the Initial Point is marked by a standard US Coast and Geodetic Survey triangulation station disc, stamped “Mt. Pierce 1928.”
CLUI photos by Cynthia Hooper
The always independent Humboldt and Del Norte Counties had their own federal survey point (in red).