During development of the mammalian CNS, axons encounter multiple pathway choices on their way to central target structures. A major pathway branch point in the visual system occurs at the optic chiasm, where retinal ganglion cell axons may either enter the ipsilateral or the contralateral optic tract. To investigate whether embryonic mouse retinal ganglion cell axons, upon reaching the optic chiasm, selectively grow into the correct pathway, developing retinal ganglion cells were retrogradely labeled using either 1,1′dioctadecyl- 3,3,3′,3′tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate (Dil) or fluorescent microspheres placed into the optic tract on one side. The distribution of ipsilaterally and contralaterally projecting ganglion cells in the embryo was then examined and compared to that of the adult animal. Results show that axon routing at the chiasm is already extremely adult- like as early as embryonic day 15 (E15), shortly after retinal axons arrive at the chiasm. [Retinal ganglion cell neurogenesis = E11-E18 (Drager, 1985); birth = E21.] Throughout the development of this pathway, routing errors are infrequent and are on the order of only about 3–8/1000 retinal ganglion cells. Thus, embryonic retinal ganglion cell axons do not project randomly at the optic chiasm but instead appear to be highly specific in their choice of pathway. To learn how correct pathway choices are made, retinal axons were retrogradely labeled with Dil and their trajectories at the optic chiasm were reconstructed. Results show that ipsilaterally and contralaterally projecting axons are highly intermixed as they enter the chiasm region but selectively grow into the correct pathway. For example, a contralaterally projecting axon near the entrance of the ipsilateral optic tract will turn and bypass this pathway and grow towards the midline to head into the contralateral optic tract. Similarly, axons far away from the ipsilateral optic tract frequently turn abruptly at right angles to enter the ipsilateral tract, directly crossing over contralaterally projecting axons heading to the opposite side. The sorting out of intermixed ipsilaterally and contralaterally projecting retinal axons into the appropriate optic tracts strongly suggests the presence of specific guidance cues at the optic chiasm during embryonic development. Together, results from this study demonstrate that the pattern of axon projection at the adult mammalian optic chiasm is gradually built upon a highly specific pattern of axon routing laid down early during development.