From OpenStreetMap Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Proposal status: Draft (under way)
Proposed by: jeisenbe
Tagging: natural=butte
Applies to: landform
Definition: A hill with a small flat top surrounded by cliffs

Draft started: 2019-04-25
RFC start: 2019-04-26


natural=butte is used to map a butte: an hill with a flat top surrounded by cliffs. These features are also known as a table, tableland, or tepui. The width of the flat top is less than the relative height of the hill

In a natural=butte the width and length of the flat area on top are both less than the height of the top of the hill above the surrounding terrain. If the flat area is wider than the hill or mountain's height, and is still surrounded by cliffs, use natural=mesa: a mesa is shapped like a low table: a large flat top and short sides, while a butte is more like a tall stool with steep side and a flat top

Buttes in Monument Valley

See butte on Wikipedia and compare with plateau on Wikipedia and mesa on Wikipedia


The tag natural=plateau is already in use, but has a much less specific definition. A plateau can be a small, relatively flat highland landform or a term for a large region. The word "tableland" is also used for both small, specific features (i.e. buttes and mesas) and larger elevated regions (i.e. larger plateaus), and therefore can also be ambiguous. Therefore, a separate tag is useful for flat-topped elevated landforms that are surrounded by cliffs.

Most buttes can also be tagged with natural=peak on their highest point, but this new tag will provide a more specific definition and also allows mapping the flat butte summit as an area, when it is clearly defined by steep cliffs.

While "butte" is an American English term, loaned from French, this word is used frequently and with a specific meaning by geologists and geographers. Since such features are common in areas with particular geology and climate, they are not commonly found in England or northern Europe, hence the American term is the most commonly known around the globe.

I have also created a proposal pages for natural=mesa and natural=plateau

Current usage:

LOADING TAG LIST... (If you do not see this tag list, you need to enable JavaScript)
This table is auto-generated. See Template:Taglist for a documentation on it.


  • As a node: place a node at the center of the landform. In this case also consider using natural=peak at the summit of the butte.
  • As an area: when the top of the butte is surrounded by cliffs, the butte can be mapped as an area with a closed way following the top of the cliffs. Buttes should only be mapped as areas when they have sharp boundaries and where the geometry can be verified by individual mappers.
  • See natural=mesa for similar features with a flat top, but where the height of the hill is less than the width of the flat top. A mesa looks more like a table, not a stool.
  • Caution: occasionally a feature will have a name that suggests it is a butte, mesa or tableland, but it lacks a flat top or is not surrounded by cliffs. In this case, another tag my be appropriate. See: natural=plateau for other flat landforms, natural=peak the summit of a hill or mountain, and natural=ridge.

Applies to

  • nodes
  • areas

Useful Combinaton


  • name label only

See also

  • natural=plateau - a relatively flat landform or highland area
  • natural=mesa - a flat tableland surrounded by cliffs. The width of the flat area is greater than its relative height.
  • natural=peak - the summit or secondary peak of a hill, mountain or ridge
  • natural=ridge - a linear hill or mountain ridge
  • natural=arete - a knife-edge rocky ridge formed by glaciers
  • natural=cliff - a vertical or near-vertical slope
  • natural=valley - a flat area that is surrounded by higher terrain on most sides


Fajada Butte, New Mexico

Fajada Butte
* natural=butte
* name = Fajada Butte

Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Devil's Tower
* natural=butte
* name = Devil's Tower
* alt_name = Bear Lodge Butte

Monument Valley, USA

Merrick Butte in Monument Valley
* natural=butte
* name = Merrick Butte

Features/Pages affected

External discussions

See Tagging mailing list from April 2019


Please comment on the discussion page.