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America's Volcanic Past
California

"Though few people in the United States may actually experience an erupting volcano, the evidence for earlier volcanism is preserved in many rocks of North America. Features seen in volcanic rocks only hours old are also present in ancient volcanic rocks, both at the surface and buried beneath younger deposits." -- Excerpt from: Brantley, 1994
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Map, Location of California

Volcanic Highlights and Features:
[NOTE: This list is just a sample of various California features or events and is by no means inclusive. All information presented here was gathered from other online websites and each excerpt is attributed back to the original source. Please use those sources in referencing any information on this webpage, and please visit those websites for more information on the Geology of California.]

  • California
  • California's Geomorphic Provinces
  • California's Volcanic Rocks
  • California's State Rock
  • Amboy Crater
  • Anderson Reservoir Dam and Anderson County Park
  • Black Butte
  • Bristol Mountains
  • Cascade Range Volcanoes
  • Channel Islands - Channel Islands National Park
  • Chemehuevi Mountains
  • Chesbro Reservoir
  • Cima Dome and Volcanic Field
  • Cinder Cone National Area
  • Coast Ranges
  • Coastal Bluffs and Headlands
  • Coso Mountains
  • Coso Volcanic Field
  • Darwin Plateau
  • Death Valley
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Devils Postpile National Monument
  • Eagle Lake
  • El Paso Mountains
  • Farallon Islands
  • Glass Mountain
  • Granite Mountains
  • Great Valley
  • Joshua Tree National Monument
  • Klamath Mountains
  • Lassen Peak
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Lava Beds National Monument
  • Lava Mountains
  • Lexington Reservoir
  • Loma Prieta
  • Long Valley, Mammoth, Mono, Inyo
  • Los Angeles Vicinity
  • Malpais Mesa
  • Marysville Buttes
  • Medicine Lake
  • Modoc Plateau
  • Mojave National Preserve
  • Monterey Peninsula
  • Morro Rock
  • Mount Diablo State Park
  • Mount Shasta
  • Mt. Unumhum
  • Newberry Mountains
  • Old Woman Mountains
  • Peninsular Ranges
  • Pinnacles National Monument
  • Point Reyes
  • Rodman Mountains
  • Salton Buttes
  • San Gabriel Mountains
  • Santa Cruz Mountains in Santa Clara County
  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
  • Sheephole Mountains
  • Sierra Nevadas
  • Sutter Buttes
  • Turtle Mountains
  • Ubehebe Craters
  • Uvas Reservoir
  • Whipple Mountains
  • Yosemite National Park

California

California's remarkable geology is the result of volcanic and tectonic activity. Its majestic mountains were shaped by glaciers during the ice ages as well as by wind and rain. The scenic coastline of California is continually shaped by the pounding waves of the Pacific Ocean. California has a wealth of mineral resources, including the rich soil of the Central Valley, the gold of the Sierra, and oil off the coast and in various locations across the state.

California can be divided up into 11 Geomorphic Provinces, many which include volcanic features. The Provinces are: The Sierra Nevadas, Cascade Range, Coast Ranges, Transverse Ranges, Peninsular Ranges, Klamath Mountains, Great Valley, Basin and Range, Modoc Plateau, Mojave Desert, and Colorado Desert.


Excerpts from: California Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES) Website, 2003, California Resources Agency, from the California Coastal Commission's California Coastal Resource Guide, and California State Geological Survey Website, 2002, "California Geomorphic Provinces Note 36."

   
California's Geomorphic Provinces

California's Geomorphic Provinces:17
California can be divided up into 11 Geomorphic Provinces, many which include volcanic features. The Provinces are:

  1. Basin and Range
    The Basin and Range is the westernmost part of the Great Basin. The province is characterized by interior drainage with lakes and playas, and the typical horst and graben structure (subparallel, fault-bounded ranges separated by downdropped basins). Death Valley, the lowest area in the United States (280 feet below sea level at Badwater), is one of these grabens. Another graben, Owens Valley, lies between the bold eastern fault scarp of the Sierra Nevada and Inyo Mountains.

  2. Cascade Range
    The Cascade Range, a chain of volcanic cones, extends through Washington and Oregon into California. It is dominated by Mt. Shasta, a glacier-mantled volcanic cone, rising 14,162 feet above sea level. The southern termination is Lassen Peak, which last erupted in the early 1920s. The Cascade Range is transected by deep canyons of the Pit River. The river flows through the range between these two major volcanic cones, after winding across interior Modoc Plateau on its way to the Sacramento River.

  3. Coast Ranges
    The Coast Ranges are mountain ranges (2,000 to 4,000, occasionally 6,000 feet elevation above sea level) and valleys. The ranges and valleys trend north-west, subparallel to the San Andreas Fault. The province terminates on the east where strata dip beneath alluvium of the Great Valley; on the west by the Pacific Ocean with mountains rising sharply from uplifted and terraced, wave-cut coast; on the north by South Fork Mountain, which has the characteristic trend of the Coast Ranges, and on the south by the Transverse Ranges. The Coast Ranges are composed of thick late Mesozoic and Cenozoic sedimentary strata. The northern and southern ranges are separated by a depression containing the San Francisco Bay. Offshore, the continental shelf is transected by submarine canyons. The Monterey submarine canyon, 10,000 feet deep, is apparently a submerged river canyon. The Northern Coast Ranges are dominated by irregular, knobby, landslide-topography of the Franciscan formation. The eastern border is characterized by strike-ridges and valleys in Upper Mesozoic strata. In several areas, Franciscan rocks are overlain by volcanic cones and flows of the Quien Sabe, Sonoma, and Clear Lake volcanic fields. The Coast Ranges are subparallel to the rift Valley of the active San Andreas Fault. The San Andreas is more than 600 miles long, extending from Pt. Arena to the Gulf of California. The Salinian block to the west of the San Andreas Fault. The San Andreas is more than 600 miles long, extending from Pt. Arena to the Gulf of California. The Salinian block to the west of the San Andreas has a granitic core, extending from the southern extremity of the Coast Ranges to the north of the Farallon Islands.

  4. Colorado Desert
    A low-lying barren desert basin, about 245 feet below sea level in part, is dominated by the Salton Sea. The province is a depressed block between active branches of alluvium-covered San Andreas Fault with the southern extension of the Mojave Desert on the east. It is characterized by the ancient beach lines and silt deposits of extinct Lake Cahuilla.

  5. Great Valley
    The Great Valley is an alluvial plain, about 50 miles wide and 400 miles long, between the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada. The Great Valley is drained by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, which join and enter San Francisco Bay. The eastern border is the west-sloping Sierran bedrock surface, which continues westward beneath alluvium and older sediments. The western border is underlain by east-dipping Cretaceous and Cenozoic strata that form a deeply buried synclinal trough, lying beneath the Great Valley along its western side. The southern part of the Great Valley is the San Joaquin Valley. Its great oil fields follow anticlinal uplifts that mark the southwestern border of San Joaquin Valley and its southern basin. To the north, the Sacramento Valley plain is interrupted by the Marysville Buttes, an isolated Pliocene volcanic plug about 2,000 feet high.

  6. Klamath Mountains
    The Klamath Mountains have rugged topography with prominent peaks and ridges reaching 6,000-8,000 feet above sea level. In the western Klamath, an irregular drainage is incised into an uplifted plateau called the Klamath peneplain. The Klamath River follows a circuitous course through the mountain. The uplift has left successive benches with gold-bearing gravels on the sides of the canyons. The province is considered to be a northern extension of the Sierra Nevada. Rocks include pre-Cretaceous metamorphic, abundant serpentinite, and granitic. Volcanic rocks of the Cascade Range lie to the east, Cretaceous sediments lie to the southeast, and Franciscan and younger Coast Range formations lie to the west.

  7. Modoc Plateau
    The Modoc Plateau is volcanic table land (elevation 4,000-6,000 feet above sea level) consisting of a thick accumulation of lava flows and tuff beds with many small volcanic cones. Occasional lakes, marshes, and sluggishly flowing streams meander across the plateau. The plateau is cut by many north-south faults. The province is bound indefinitely by the Cascade Range on the west and the Basin-Range on the east and south.

  8. Mojave Desert
    The Mojave is a broad interior region of isolated mountain ranges separated by expanses of desert plains. It has an interior enclosed drainage and many playas. There are two important fault trends that control topography a prominent NW-SE trend and a secondary east-west trend (apparent alignment with Transverse Ranges is significant). The Mojave province is wedged in a sharp angle between the Garlock Fault (southern boundary Sierra Nevada) and the San Andreas Fault, where it bends east from its northwest trend. The northern boundary of the Mojave is separated from the prominent Basin and Range by the eastern extension of the Garlock Fault.

  9. Peninsular Ranges
    A series of ranges is separated by longitudinal valleys, trending NW-SE, subparallel to faults branching from the San Andreas Fault. The trend of topography is similar to the Coast Ranges, but the geology is more like the Sierra Nevada, with granitic rock intruding the older metamorphic rocks. The Peninsular Ranges extend into lower California and are bound on the east by the Colorado Desert. The Los Angeles Basin, and the island group (Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara, and the distinctly terraced San Clemente and San Nicolas islands), together with the surrounding continental shelf (cut by deep submarine fault troughs) are included in this province.

  10. Sierra Nevadas
    The Sierra is a tilted fault block nearly 400 miles long. Its east face is a high, rugged multiple scarp, contrasting with the gentle western slope (about 2°) that disappears under sediments of the Great Valley. Deep river canyons are cut into the western slope. Their upper courses, especially in massive granites of the higher Sierra, are modified by glacial sculpturing, forming such scenic features as Yosemite Valley. The high crest culminates in Mt. Whitney with an elevation of 14,495 feet above sea level near the eastern scarp. The metamorphic bedrock (still partly capped by Tertiary volcanics), contains gold-bearing veins; a north-south structural trend is predominant in the western flank and northern end of the Sierra. The northern Sierra boundary is marked where bedrock disappears under the Cenozoic volcanic cover of the Cascade Range.

  11. Transverse Ranges
    The Transverse Ranges are a complex series of mountain ranges and valleys distinguished by an anomalous dominant east-west trend, contrasting to the NW-SE direction of the Coast Ranges and Peninsular Ranges. Structural trends (NW-SE and NE-SW) subordinate to a major east-west direction, significant in the formation of important oil field structures. The Cenozoic sedimentary section is one of the thickest in the world. The western limit of the province is the island group of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz. The eastern limit, within the Mojave Desert, includes the San Bernardino Mountains on the east side of the San Andreas Fault.

   

California's Volcanic Rocks

Tertiary and Quaternary Volcanic Rocks:17
Lava flows erupted from volcanoes. These rocks make up much of the Cascade Range and the Modoc Plateau, and are widespread in eastern California. They also occur in coastal regions.

Mesozoic Granitic Rocks:17
A wide variety of coarse-grained igneous rocks formed when magma that intruded the earth's crust cooled and was later exposed by erosion. Granitic rocks occur throughout the state, but are most common in the mountainous areas such as the Klamath Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, and the Peninsular Ranges. Some granitic rocks are Cenozoic, Paleozoic, and Precambrian.




California's State Rock

Serpentine - California's State Rock:17
Serpentine rock is apple-green to black and is often mottled with light and dark colored areas. Its surfaces often have a shiny or wax-like appearance and a slightly soapy feel. Serpentine is usually fine-grained and compact but may be granular, platy, or fibrous in appearance. The term "serpentine" is commonly used by the general public to refer to the rock type that geologists call "serpentinite." Serpentine occurs in central and northern California -- in the Coast Ranges, the Klamath Mountains, and in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Serpentine is considered by geoscientists to be the metamorphosed remains of magnesium-rich igneous rocks, most commonly the rock peridotite, from the earth's mantle.




Amboy Crater

Amboy Volcanic Field:25
The Amboy lava field covers approximately 70 square miles and consists primarily of vesicular pahoehoe. The field is in an alluvial-filled valley between the Bullion Mountains to the southwest and the Bristol Mountains to the northeast. Within the valley, it lies between Bagdad Dry Lake to the west and Bristol Dry Lake to the east; both are playa lakes typical of the Mojave Desert. Most of the Amboy lava field is composed of undifferentiated flow units of relatively dense, "degassed" pahoehoe lavas that form a hummocky terrain. The surface relief on this unit ranges from 2 to 5 meters. The flow is characterized by abundant tumuli and pressure ridges and, as is typical for this type of flow, a fractured surface. Lava tubes are not present in any of the flows, nor are blisters or shelly-type pahoehoe; only a few lava channels are present.

Amboy Crater:25
Amboy Crater is a prominent, undissected cinder cone in the northeaster quadrant of the lava field. The volcano erupted along the northern border of Bristol Dry Lake and poured lava onto its surface, dividing it into the two present playas. The cone rises 75 meters above the surrounding lava flows and is approximately 460 meters in basal diameter. It is composed of a loose accumulation of volcanic ejecta with secondary amounts of agglutinated ejecta and flows. Amboy Crater is not a single cone but is composed of at least four nearly coaxial nested cones. The outer slopes of the main cone are gullied by erosion. Within the main outer cone, there is a remnant of a second cone on the west side; both cones are breached on the west. In addition to the two main cones, there are two relatively undisturbed cone walls within the main crater. These innermost cones are composed almost entirely of angular scoriaceous cinders.

Amboy Crater - National Natural Landmark:29
San Bernardino County - Excellent example of a recent volcanic cinder cone with an unusually flat crater floor. (May 1973) Owner: Federal, Private. DESIGNATION DATE: May 1973




Anderson Reservoir Dam and Anderson County Park

Anderson Reservoir Dam and Anderson County Park:27
Pass the bridge over Coyote Creek (on Highway 101). Anderson Reservoir Dam can be seen blocking a former gorge through the Yerba Buena Ridge (several miles to the left). This long ridge preserves evidence of the complex geologic history related to the ongoing development of the Calaveras-Hayward fault system and the uplift of the Diablo Range. The hilltops above the dam preserve evidence of a late Tertiary volcanic lava flow that formed early in the development of the San Andreas fault system and the opening of the Santa Clara Valley. These volcanic rocks unconformably overlie highly-deformed Franciscan assemblage rocks, mostly ancient basalt, greenstone [altered basaltic volcanic rocks], serpentinite, chert, shale, and graywacke sandstone. (Graywacke is a fancy name for a “dark, poorly sorted, typically fine-grained, dirty rock.”) Some of the rocks are well-exposed near the reservoir spillway and the boat-ramp areas in Anderson County Park.


Black Butte

Black Butte:14
Holocene eruptions occurred at Black Butte, a group of overlapping dacite domes about 13 kilometers (8 miles) west of Mount Shasta.




Black Mountain

Black Mountain:23
The Black Mountain Wilderness is a volcanic flow and mesa with a deposit of fine grained dune sand in the southeast corner. Elevations range from 2,080 to 3,941 feet at the summit of Black Mountain. Golden eagles and prairie falcons have been seen foraging in this area, which is also known for its occasional display of spring flowers. Location: San Bernardino County; 13 miles northwest of Barstow, California.


Bristol Mountains

Bristol Mountains:23
A portion of the rolling Bristol Mountains and a tilted volcanic plain form the Bristol Mountains Wilderness. The lack of any springs and extreme distances make travel in this wilderness a challenge for the most experienced desert hiker. The wilderness is contiguous with the Granite Mountains Wilderness, which is part of the Mojave National Preserve on its eastern boundary at Budweiser Wash. Location: San Bernardino County; 40 miles southeast of Baker, California.


Cascade Range Volcanoes

California's Cascade Range:17
The Cascade Range, a chain of volcanic cones, extends through Washington and Oregon into California. It is dominated by Mount Shasta, a glacier-mantled volcanic cone, rising 14,162 feet above sea level. The southern termination is Lassen Peak which last erupted in the early 1920s. The Cascade Range is transected by deep canyons of the Pit River. The river flows through the range between these two major volcanic cones, after winding across the interior Modoc Plateau on its way to the Sacramento River.
(See Black Butte, Glass Mountain, Lassen Peak, Lava Beds, Medicine Lake, and Mount Shasta below)




Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park - Overview:20
Comprised of five in a chain of eight southern California islands near Los Angeles, Channel Islands National Park is home to a wide variety of nationally and internationally significant natural and cultural resources. Over 2,000 species of plants and animals can be found within the park. The park consists of 249,354 acres, half of which are under the ocean, and include the islands of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara. Even though the islands seem tantalizingly close to the densely populated, southern California coast, their isolation has left them relatively undeveloped, making them an exciting place for visitors to explore.

Channel Islands:24
The Channel Islands were created as a result of geologic activity millions of years ago. The four northern Channel Islands are actually the western terminus of the Santa Monica Mountains, separated from the mainland by the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. Twenty thousand years ago, when worldwide sea level was 300 feet lower than at present, the four islands formed one large island. The four southern Channel Islands are thought to have once been connected to the mountains of the Peninsular Ranges, but faulting in the San Pedro Channel 30 million years ago cut them off from the mainland.

Anacapa Island:20
Anacapa Island is located 14 miles off the coast from Ventura. It is the only Channel Island to retain its American Indian name, derived from the Chumash word, "Eneepah", meaning island of deception or mirage. Ocean waves have eroded the perimeter of the island, creating steep sea cliffs towering hundreds of feet in height and exposing the volcanic origins of air pockets, lava tubes, and sea caves. At the east end of Anacapa a natural bridge has formed in the ocean. Forty-foot high Arch Rock is a trademark of Anacapa and Channel Islands National Park.

Santa Barbara Island:20
Santa Barbara Island (639 acres), 38 miles west of San Pedro, is the smallest of the California Channel Islands. Formed by underwater volcanic activity, Santa Barbara is roughly triangular in outline and emerges from the ocean as a giant twin-peaked mesa with steep cliffs. Even though small in size, Santa Barbara Island boasts diversity in its habitats, with a few narrow rocky beaches, six canyons, and badlands area. It is much like Anacapa Island in its being a haven for sea birds. The steep cliffs and isolation from mainland predators provide safe breeding sites for thousands of sea birds.

Santa Cruz Island:20
Santa Cruz is the largest island off the coast of California. Located between Anacapa and Santa Rosa Islands, it lies from 19-25 miles off the adjacent mainland coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara. The scenic beauty of Santa Cruz is reflected in its many landforms -- two rugged mountain ranges, the highest peaks on the Channel Islands, deep canyons, a central valley, year-round springs and streams, plus 77 miles of craggy coastline cliffs, giant sea caves, pristine tidepools and expansive beaches. Lying directly on the boundary between cold northern and warm southern waters, this island hosts unique plant, animal, and marine communities representing nearly 1,000 miles of coastline. In its vastness and variety of flora, fauna and geology, Santa Cruz Island resembles a miniature California. Geologists believe that the island never has been attached to the mainland. All three major rock types -- igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic -- are found throughout this rugged, mountainous island. Nestled between two mountain ranges that rise above 2,000 feet, is a pastoral Central Valley that was, and still is, being created by a major earthquake fault.




Chemehuevi Mountains

Chemehuevi Mountains:23
The Chemehuevi Mountains are a horse-shoe shaped range a few miles from the Colorado River. These mountains transform gradually from almost white granite to dark red and gray volcanic spires. Within the arms of the horseshoe is a large central valley, its rolling hills covered by dense stands of cholla and other cactus. Desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, wild burros and desert mule deer are among the wildlife making their homes here. A popular trail is the 12-mile Trampas Wash, which bisects the wilderness and ends at the Colorado River. Springs within the wilderness are seasonal and should be depended upon for water. Location: San Bernardino County; 12 miles southeast of Needles, California.




Chesbro Reservoir

Chesbro Reservoir:27
Chesbro Reservoir boat dock - examine serpentinite exposed around the reservoir Boulders of many of the different Franciscan assemblage rocks are conveniently on display around the boat dock parking area. Boulders around the margin of the boat-dock parking area include examples of graywacke sandstone, metasandstone, greenstone (metabasalt), serpentinite, red chert, and chert breccia. These rocks occur in scattered pod-like masses (a classic mélange) exposed along the shoreline of Chesbro Reservoir. A short walk to the dam (0.2 miles) provides opportunity to view exceptional exposures of serpentinite in road cuts and in excavations along dam path. Don’t stand along the road because of the hazard of speeding cars. Instead, the safer place to examine the serpentinite is along the dam path. Some of the serpentinite displays slickensides, a linear fracture pattern caused by fault shearing motion between rock surfaces. From the opposite end of the dam you can see the back of El Toro, the peak overlooking Morgan Hill. Downstream from the reservoir, Llagas Creek flows through Paradise Valley and enters the Santa Clara Valley a couple of miles south of Morgan Hill. On the north side of the spillway is a landslide formed in the weathered serpentinite. Note the bluish-green to black color of the residual soil; the soil is rich in the clay mineral, montmorillonite.




Cima Dome and Volcanic Field

Cima Dome:11
The northern half of Mojave National Preserve is dominated by a broad sloping desert upland called Cima Dome. The dome is the exposed remains of a massive body of granite that formed deep underground long ago and was slowly forced to the surface.

Cima Volcanic Field:7
Volcanic eruptions in the Cima field first began about 7.6 million years ago and continued until at least as recently as 10,000 years ago (based on the K-Ar dating method), near the end of the most recent ice age. The field is characterized by basalt, which is a black to dark gray volcanic rock formed from lava rich in magnesium and iron. Each of the 40 cinder cones in the volcanic field represents one or more sites from which lava erupted.




Cinder Cone National Area

Cinder Cone National Area - National Natural Landmark:29
San Bernardino County - 24 miles east of Baker. A complex of over 20 large cinder cones of recent origin with extensive and continuous lava flows. Owner: Federal, State. DESIGNATION DATE: May 1973




Coast Ranges

Coast Ranges:17
The Coast Ranges are mountain ranges (2,000-4,000, occasionally 6,000 feet elevation above sea level) and valleys. The ranges and valleys trend northwest, subparallel to the San Andreas Fault. The province terminates on the east where strata dip beneath alluvium of the Great Valley; on the west by the Pacific Ocean with mountains rising sharply from uplifted and terraced, wave-cut coast; on the north by South Fork Mountain, which has the characteristic trend of the Coast Ranges, and on the south by the Transverse Ranges. The Coast Ranges are composed of thick late Mesozoic and Cenozoic sedimentary strata. The northern and southern ranges are separated by a depression containing the San Francisco Bay. Offshore, the continental shelf is transected by submarine canyons. The Monterey submarine canyon, 10,000 feet deep, is apparently a submerged river canyon. The northern Coast Ranges are dominated by irregular, knobby, landslide topography of the Franciscan Formation. The eastern border is characterized by strike-ridges and valleys in Upper Mesozoic strata. In several areas, Franciscan rocks are overlain by volcanic cones and flows of the Quien Sabe, Sonoma, and Clear Lake volcanic fields. The Coast Ranges are subparallel to the rift valley of the active San Andreas Fault. The San Andreas is more than 600 miles long, extending from Point Arena to the Gulf of California. The Salinian block to the west of the San Andreas has a granitic core, extending from the southern extremity of the Coast Ranges to north of the Farallon Islands.




Coastal Bluffs and Headlands

Coastal Bluffs and Headlands:24
Coastal bluffs are composed mainly of sedimentary rocks such as sandstones and shales that are particularly prone to erosion. Grains of quartz, feldspar, and mica compressed into layers of sandstone crumble easily; when wet, shales and siltstones disintegrate, and clays and mudstones, soften and liquefy. Lying on top of the sedimentary deposits of many bluffs is alluvial soil, loosely consolidated sand and gravel deposited by ancient rivers and streams. Examples of sedimentary coastal bluffs are the sandstone bluffs of Santa Cruz, the alluvial cliffs at La Jolla, and the shale cliffs of Point Loma in San Diego County. Rocky headlands are composed of igneous rocks -- granites and basalts -- that are resistant to wave erosion. Granitic formations include the Point Reyes Headlands in Marin County. Morro Rock in San Luis Obispo County, Point Dume in Los Angeles County, and Point Sur in Monterey County are outcroppings of basaltic lava.




Coso Mountains

Coso Mountains:23
This Coso Range Wilderness encompasses the northern section of the Coso Mountain Range, an area of extensive erosion revealing outstanding volcanic displays and numerous valleys and washes. From high points within the wilderness, most notably Joshua Flat, one can obtain outstanding views of the Owens Valley and the eastern Sierra Nevadas. Creosote, low desert shrubs, annuals, cactus and large stands of Joshua trees are the primary vegetation in the area. Vermillion Canyon and Joshua Flat are two especially scenic areas within this wilderness. Cactus Flat and McCloud Flat are two areas of historic mining activity. Location: Inyo County; 12 miles west of Darwin, California and 6 miles northeast of Olancha, California.


Coso Volcanic Field

Coso Volcanic Field:17
The Coso volcanic field is located at the west edge of the Basin and Range province. Initiation of volcanism at Coso preceded the onset of Basin and Range crustal extension there, as expressed by normal faulting. The earlier of the two principal periods of volcanism began with the emplacement of basalt flows over a surface of little relief. Then, during the ensuing period of about 1.5 million years, eruptive activity included chemically more evolved rocks erupted upon a faulted terrain of substantial relief. Following a 1.5-million-year hiatus with few eruptions, a bimodal field of basalt lava flows and rhyolite lava domes and flows developed on Basin and Range terrain of essentially the same form as today's landscape. Many of the young basalt flows are intracanyon, occupying parts of the presentday drainage system. The Coso volcanic field is best known for its Pleistocene rhyolite. Thirty-eight rhyolite domes and flows form an elongate array atop a north-tending 8 by 20-kilometer horst of Mesozoic bedrock. Nearly uneroded constructional forms are exhibited by most domes. Many are nested within tuff-ring craters, and a few filled and overflowed their craters to feed flows a kilometer or two long.




Darwin Plateau

Darwin Plateau:23
The Darwin Plateau and Darwin Hills form the landscape of the Darwin Falls Wilderness. The plateau, which is cut by numerous shallow depressions and canyons, displays a variety of volcanic rock faces and exposures. Location: Inyo County; 3 miles north of Darwin, California and 25 miles northeast of Olancha, California.


Death Valley -
Death Valley National Park

Death Valley:12
The oldest rocks exposed in Death Valley are about 1.8 billion years (Precambrian), almost half the age of the Earth. These venerable rocks are the remnants of an ancient volcanic mountain belt with its flanking deposits of mud and sand.




Devils Postpile -
Devils Postpile National Monument

Devils Postpile:12
The Devils Postpile is a fine example of columnar basalt. Until recently, it was thought to have been formed about one million years ago. Current studies suggest that the Devils Postpile was formed less than 100,000 years ago when a cooling lava flow cracked into multisided columns.




Eagle Lake

Eagle Lake:26
The Eagle Lake volcanic field is located at the junction of three geological provinces: Sierra Nevada, Cascades, and Basin and Range. The field is obviously defined by late Pleistocene flows of olivine tholeiitic basalt covering 125 square kilometers within the Eagle Lake volcano-tectonic depression. Fifteen cinder cone-and-flow vents less than 100 meters high, fed the flows during two eruptive periods, each very brief, probably between 50 and 100 thousand years ago. Several low composite volcanoes and small shields of Pliocene age occur just outside the late Pleistocene field.

  • Roop Mountain volcano, 650 meters high, consists of andesite flows.
  • Antelope Mountain volcano, 600 meters high, consists of andesite flows with minor dacite flows and pyroclastic debris.
  • Logan Mountain shield, 400 meters high, is basaltic and mafic andesitic.
  • Heavy Mountain shield, 250 meters high, is also made of basalt and mafic andesite flows. Two-million-year old, multiple-vent structures are well preserved on Heavy Mountain.
  • Champs Flat - the only known silicic flows in the area include the deeply eroded flow domes of Champs Flat exposed in an area of 3 square kilometers.
The areas between these volcanoes are underlain by numerous coalescing and interfingering flows with local interbeds of tuff, mostly of Pliocene age. They are derived from many small local vents.




El Paso Mountains

El Paso Mountains:23
Numerous reddish-colored buttes and dark, uplifted volcanic mesas dissected by narrow canyons distinguish this wilderness. Badlands topography surrounds Black Mountain, the central feature of this wilderness. The most spectacular attribute of this area is the abundance of cultural sites. The southern portion of the wilderness is included in the Last Chance Archaeological District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Wildlife includes raptors, Mojave ground squirrel and the desert tortoise. Vegetation primarily consists of creosote bush scrub community with Joshua trees on the western side of the mountain. Location: Kern County; 6 miles southwest of Ridgecrest, California.


Farallon Islands

Farallon Islands:24
More than half the California population of resident and migratory seabirds nests on the Farallon Islands, a group of seven sparsely vegetated granite outcroppings located offshore of the Golden Gate channel. The Channel Islands and the Farallon Islands were created as a result of geologic activity millions of years ago. The Farallons are composed of 89-million-year-old granite that emerged as molten rock from below the sea floor; uplifting of the Pacific Plate during the mid-Pleistocene completed the island-making process. The four northern Channel Islands are actually the western terminus of the Santa Monica Mountains, separated from the mainland by the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. Twenty thousand years ago, when worldwide sea level was 300 feet lower than at present, the four islands formed one large island. The four southern Channel Islands are thought to have once been connected to the mountains of the Peninsular Ranges, but faulting in the San Pedro Channel 30 million years ago cut them off from the mainland.




Glass Mountain

Glass Mountain Obsidian Flow:2
Medicine Lake volcano is a shield volcano of basaltic through rhyolitic composition that lies east of the main axis of the Cascade Range, approximately 50 kilometers east-northeast of Mount Shasta. The volcano is thought to be younger than approximately 1,000 years, and consists of calc-alkaline and tholeiitic lavas. The most recent eruption occurred around 1,000 years ago when rhyolite and dacite erupted at Glass Mountain and associated vents near the caldera's eastern rim. (See Medicine Lake Volcano below)




Granite Mountains

Granite Mountains:7
Some of the more striking rock formations in the Mojave National Preserve lie in the Granite Mountains. These granitic rocks have eroded into unusual rounded shapes that include spires, perched boulders, and curved cliff faces. Granitic rocks represent the roots of ancient continental-margin volcanic systems. Most of the granitic rock in the Mojave Desert is late Mesozoic in age (80 to 180 million years old). The Mojave National Preserve lies within a belt of late Mesozoic granites that parallels the western continental margin from Mexico to Canada. The granites formed at depth within a volcanically active mountain range comparable in geologic setting to the Andes Mountains chain in South America. The granitoids formed by the slow cooling and solidification of molten magma bodies that developed above sinking slabs of oceanic crust overridden by the edge of the continent. At least 55 or 60 million years elapsed between the crystallization of the last Mesozoic magma bodies and deposition of the youngest-preserved overlying strata. The Mojave National Preserve probably formed a highlands during much of this period and erosion gradually stripped off Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks overlying the granites.




Great Valley

Great Valley Geomorphic Province:17
The Great Valley is an alluvial plain, about 50 miles wide and 400 miles long, between the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada. The Great Valley is drained by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, which join and enter San Francisco Bay. The eastern border is the west-sloping Sierran bedrock surface, which continues westward beneath alluvium and older sediments. The western border is underlain by east-dipping Cretaceous and Cenozoic strata that form a deeply buried synclinal trough, lying beneath the Great Valley along its western side. The southern part of the Great Valley is the San Joaquin Valley. Its great oil fields follow anticlinal uplifts that mark the southwestern border of San Joaquin Valley and its southern basin. To the north, the Sacramento Valley plain is interrupted by the Marysville Buttes, and isolated Pliocene volcanic plug about 2,000 feet high.


Joshua Tree National Monument

Granite Monoliths:9
The monument encompasses some of the most interesting geologic displays found in California's deserts. Rugged mountains of twisted rock and exposed granite monoliths testify to the tremendous earth forces that shaped and formed this land. Arroyos, playas, alluvial fans, bajadas, pediments, desert varnish, granites, aplite, and gneiss interact to form a giant desert mosaic of immense beauty and complexity.




Klamath Mountains

Klamath Mountains:17
The Klamath Mountains have rugged topography with prominent peaks and ridges reaching 6,000-8,000 feet above sea level. In the western Klamath, an irregular drainage is incised into an uplifted plateau called the Klamath peneplain. The Klamath River follows a circuitous course through the mountains. The uplift has left successive benches with gold-bearing gravels on the sides of the canyons. The province is considered to be a northern extension of the Sierra Nevada. Rocks include pre-Cretaceous metamorphic, abundant serpentine, and granitic. Volcanic rocks of the Cascade Range lie to the east, Cretaceous sediments lie to the southeast, and Franciscan and younger Coast Range formations lie to the west.


Lassen Peak -
Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Peak:12
Lassen Peak is the largest of a group of more than 30 lava domes in the Lassen domefield. Such domes are near-vent accumulations of highly viscous lava. About 27,000 years ago, Lassen Peak formed over a short time, probably no more than a few years. Its 2,000-foot height and nearly 2-cubic kilometer volume make it one of the largest lava domes in the world. When it formed, Lassen Peak looked much like the Chaos Crags domes do today -- covered with angular rock talus and with oversteepened flanks. During the last ice age, 18,000 to 25,000 years ago, its shape was significantly modified by glacial erosion. A tiny reminder of one of these glaciers survives on Lassen's eastern flank. The depression on the northeastern flank of Lassen Peak is a glacial cirque, where ice accumulated to form a glacier 10 kilometers long.

Lassen Volcanic National Park:10
The Lassen area was made a National Park in 1916 because of its significance as an active volcanic landscape. The park is a compact laboratory of volcanic phenomena and associated thermal features (except true geysers). It is part of a vast geographic unit - a great lava plateau with isolated volcanic peaks - that also encompasses Lava Beds National Monument, California, and Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.




Lava Beds -
Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds:3
Lava Beds National Monument is located on the northern flank of Medicine Lake volcano and encompasses mostly basaltic and some andesitic lavas.




Lava Mountains

Lava Mountains:23
The Golden Valley Wilderness is surrounded on either side by two distinct mountain ranges. The Lava Mountains stretch across the northwestern portion of the area, crowned by Dome Mountain at nearly 5,000 feet. This range is cut by several steep walled canyons that reveal bands of multi-colored sedimentary rocks. The Almond Mountains, rising to an elevation of 4,500 feet, enclose the valley on the southeast. Location: San Bernardino County; 10 miles southeast of Ridgecrest, California


Lexington Reservoir

Lexington Reservoir Dam:28
The geology around the dam site is quite complex. Near the boat dock parking area are massive exposures of graywacke sandstone, whereas a short distance down stream along Los Gatos Creek gorge the bedrock consists of deeply weathered serpentinite that is prone to landsliding. Landsliding can be seen on both sides of the valley where serpentinite crops out. On the north side of Highway 17 an active landslide in the serpentinite continuously dumps material onto the highway.




Loma Prieta

Loma Prieta:27
Loma Prieta (Spanish for “black mountain”) stands above the southern end of the Sierra Azul (Spanish for “blue mountain”). The Sierra Azul is actually a steep-sided ridge that runs along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains (including Loma Prieta and Mt. Umunhum, and two lower peaks to the north, Mt. Thayer and El Sombroso). The high ridge separates the Santa Clara Valley around San José from the San Andreas Rift valley to the southwest. Loma Prieta (3,806 feet) is the highest point in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Its summit consists of a serpentinite diapiric plug (Coast Range Ophiolite) surrounded on the east by middle Tertiary Temblor Sandstone on the east, and by Late Cretaceous sedimentary rocks (shale, mudstone, graywacke sandstone, and conglomerate - Great Valley Sequence equivalent rocks) on the west. The peak is host to a privately-owned radio tower operation.




Long Valley, Mammoth, Mono, Inyo

Long Valley and Vicinity:4
About 760,000 years ago a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in the Long Valley, California area blew out 150 cubic miles of magma (molten rock) from a depth of about 4 miles beneath the Earth's surface. Rapidly moving flows of glowing hot ash covered much of east-central California, and airborne ash fell as far east as Nebraska. The Earth's surface sank more than 1 mile into the space once occupied by the erupted magma, forming a large volcanic depression that geologists call a caldera. The massive Long Valley eruption was followed by hundreds of smaller eruptions over the next few hundred thousand years. These eruptions of lava flows, domes, and pyroclastic flows were concentrated in the central and western parts of the caldera. Volcanic activity then moved northward to the Mono Lake area about 35,000 years ago to build the Mono Craters. The most recent eruptions in the area occurred from the Mono and Inyo Craters about 600 years ago, and from Negit Island in Mono Lake about 250 years ago.




Los Angeles Vicinity

Peninsular Ranges:17
The Peninsular Ranges are a series of ranges separated by longitudinal valleys, trending NW-SE, subparallel to faults branching from the San Andreas Fault. The trend of topography is similar to the Coast Ranges, but the geology is more like the Sierra Nevada, with granitic rock intruding the older metamorphic rocks. The Peninsular Ranges extend into lower California and are bound on the east by the Colorado Desert. The Los Angeles Basin, and island group (Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara, and the distinctly terraced San Clemente and San Nicolas islands), together with the surrounding continental shelf (cut by deep submarine fault troughs) are included in this province.




Malpais Mesa

Malpais Mesa:23
The landscape of the Malpais Mesa Wilderness takes on a variety of forms. Situated at the southern end of the Inyo Mountains, rugged valleys, deep canyons, sheer mountain sides and mesas can be found within a short distance of each other. To the east, gently sloping bajadas rise to meet the rugged volcanic lava flow of Malpais Mesa. Vegetation also takes on many forms: creosote, low desert shrubs and grasses on lower elevations; Joshua trees on the eastern slopes at mid elevations; and pinyon pines and juniper on the higher elevations. Wildlife within the wilderness includes mule deer and foraging and nesting habitat for golden eagles. Location: Inyo County; 15 miles northeast of Olancha, California and 10 miles northwest of Darwin, California.




Marysville Buttes

Marysville Buttes:17
The Sacramento Valley plain is interrupted by the Marysville Buttes, and isolated Pliocene volcanic plug about 2,000 feet high.


Medicine Lake

Medicine Lake Shield Volcano:3
Medicine Lake volcano is a Pleistocene and Holocene shield volcano located in northeastern California about 50 kilometers east of Mount Shasta, near the western margin of the Basin and Range tectonic province. Lava Beds National Monument is located on the northern flank of Medicine Lake volcano and encompasses mostly basaltic and some andesitic lavas. Higher on the volcano, basaltic lava is mostly absent, andesite dominates, and rhyolite and small volumes of dacite are present, the latter mainly near the 7 x 12 kilometer Medicine Lake caldera.




Modoc Plateau

Modoc Plateau:17
The Modoc Plateau is volcanic table land (elevation 4,000-6,000 feet above sea level) consisting of a thick accumulation of lava flows and tuff beds with many small volcanic cones. Occasional lakes, marshes, and sluggishly flowing streams meander across the plateau. The plateau is cut by many north-south faults. The province is bound indefinitely by the Cascade Range on the west and the Basin and Range on the east and south.




Mojave National Preserve

Mojave National Preserve:12
The volcanic eruptions that rocked what is now Mojave National Preserve coincided with a period (about 20-5 million years ago) of intense plate tectonic activity. During this episode, the Earth's crust was literally ripped apart, radically altering the landscape of the Southwest. As the crust stretched, fractures formed along weak zones and mountain range-sized blocks jolted and slid against each other along faults. Some of these enormous blocks of crust rose up, forming rows of high, elongate mountains. Other blocks slid down, forming the low valleys. Together, the linear mountain ranges and intervening valleys define the Basin and Range Province. The thinned, faulted crust made it easier for magma to rise up and follow weaknesses in the rock. Where magma reached the surface volcanoes grew and great globs of magma solidified to form plutons beneath them. In some places within the Preserve these geologically young plutons can be seen right at the surface. These plutons 'froze' at depth, then were almost immediately lifted up to the surface as mountains rose along new faults. This is truly a dynamic place!




Monterey Peninsula

Monterey Peninsula:22
Granitic rocks that make up the Monterey Peninsula are also seen as acoustically-distinctive outcrops on the continental shelf around the Peninsula out to depths of from 80 to 100 meters.




Morro Rock

Morro Rock:24
Rocky headlands are composed of igneous rocks -- granites and basalts -- that are resistant to wave erosion. Granitic formations include the Point Reyes Headlands in Marin County. Morro Rock in San Luis Obispo County, Point Dume in Los Angeles County, and Point Sur in Monterey County are outcroppings of basaltic lava.




Mount Diablo State Park

Mount Diablo State Park - National Natural Landmark:29
Contra Costa County - 31 miles east of Berkeley. Contains the best examples of diapiric (igneous intrusion) geologic processes in the South Pacific Border natural region. One of the few places in the region where geologic strata of Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary age can be seen in an aggregate thickness of 42,000 feet. The park also possesses a great diversity of native plant species and associations. Owner: State. DESIGNATION DATE: May 1982.


Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta:14
Mount Shasta is located in the Cascade Range in northern California about 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of the Oregon-California border and about midway between the Pacific Coast and the Nevada border. One of the largest and highest of the Cascade volcanoes, snowclad Mount Shasta is near the southern end of the range that terminates near Lassen Peak. Mount Shasta is a massive compound stratovolcano composed of overlapping cones centered at four or more main vents; it was constructed during a period of more than 100,000 years.

Mount Shasta - National Natural Landmark:29
Siskiyou County - 60 miles north of Redding. One of the world's largest and most impressive stratovolcanoes containing five glaciers and consisting of four distinct but overlapping cones. Second highest of the 15 main volcanoes in the Cascade Range; only Mt. Rainier is higher. Owner: Federal. DESIGNATION DATE: December 1976.

Shastina and Hotlum Cones:14
Two of the main eruptive centers at Mount Shasta, the Shastina and Hotlum cones were constructed during Holocene time, which includes about the last 10,000 years.


Mt. Unumhum

Mt. Unumhum:27
“Umunhum” is the Ohlone Indian word for “hummingbird.” The “blockhouse” that resides at the 3,486 foot summit of Mt. Umunhum is a relict of the “Cold War” missile complex and until recently was on land owned by the U.S. Air Force. In 2001, the land was acquired and added to the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. Until environmental restoration is complete, Mt. Umunhum will remains off-limits to the public. A large cliffy exposure on the northeast face of Mt. Umunhum is one of the best Bay Area exposures of the Coast Range Ophiolite. The Coast Range Ophiolite is a piece of Middle Jurassic oceanic crust and mantle that is also known to underlie the rocks of the Great Valley throughout central California. The original oceanic crust has largely been converted to serpentinite and with extensive faulting and diapiric injection upward, some of it is migrated to its current exposures on the Earth’s surface, including this exposure on the face of Mt. Umunhum and the extensive outcrop areas throughout the Santa Cruz Mountain foothills and elsewhere.

Mt. Umunhum:28
Mt. Umunhum is dominated by Jurassic-age serpentinitized ultramafic rock on its eastern flank and by Cretaceous-age conglomerate on its western flank.




Newberry Mountains

Newberry Moutains:23
The Newberry Mountains Wilderness is noted for its rugged volcanic mountains and deep, maze-like canyons. Topography ranges from 2,200 feet in the north to 5,100 feet in the south. The unique desert features are the result of ancient volcanic activity. Desert bighorn sheep have historically traveled this area, and prairie falcons and golden eagles stop here to forage and rest. Spring wildflower displays are likely along the west boundary. Location: San Bernardino County; 15 miles east of Barstow, California.


Old Woman Mountains

Old Woman Mountains:23 Taking its name from a granite rock monolith that resembles the figure of an old woman, the massive Old Woman Mountain range dominates the wilderness. Topography ranges from 800 at the lower elevations and rises more than 5,300 to the summit of Old Woman Peak. Creosote bush scrub covers the lower elevations, mixing with desert scrub at the middle elevations, while at the highest elevations grows a juniper-pinyon woodland. Bighorn sheep and desert tortoise live here, and the rocky outcrops and rugged peaks of the range provide homes for numerous raptors. The Old Woman Mountains have long been used by man. Traces of prehistoric trails and historic mining routes entice the experienced desert hiker. Be prepared for dry walks across extensive bajadas and up long, sandy washes. Do not depend on mapped springs for water, and remember to carry one gallon of water per person per day. Location: San Bernardino County; 35 miles southwest of Needles, California.


Peninsular Ranges

Peninsular Ranges:17
A series of ranges is separated by longitudinal valleys, trending NW-SE, subparallel to faults branching from the San Andreas Fault. The trend of topography is similar to the Coast Ranges, but the geology is more like the Sierra Nevada, with granitic rock intruding the older metamorphic rocks. The Peninsular Ranges extend into lower California and are bound on the east by the Colorado Desert. The Los Angeles Basin, and island group (Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara, and the distinctly terraced San Clemente and San Nicolas islands), together with the surrounding continental shelf (cut by deep submarine fault troughs) are included in this province.




Pinnacles National Monument

The Ancient Volcano:8
The story begins more than 23 million years ago when molten rock poured over the surface of the land through fissures that opened as the two plates ground past one another. As the eruptions grew in intensity the cone being built by the volcanic activity grew until a high steep-sided volcano had been formed. Geologists theorize that this volcanic mountain once stood nearly a mile higher than North Chalone Peak, the highest point in the park today. Yet even as this volcano was being formed, its own destruction was at hand, for the Pacific Plate upon which it was located began moving off to the northwest. In time the portion of the volcano whose eroded remnants we now know as the Pinnacles reached its present location, 195 miles beyond its point of origin. All the while, too, erosion, was at work carving and breaking down the once mighty peak to about a third of its original height, sculpting the spires and crags you see today. Nor is the geologic process at an end. Millions of years from now what little will be left of this ancient volcano will have moved off to the northwest.

Pinnacles:8
These rocks are the remains of an ancient volcano. Or rather they are part of the remains, for the rest of this volcano lies 195 miles to the southeast. Sound intriguing? It is all part of the story of the San Andreas Rift Zone, which runs just east of the park, and the geological forces that have shaped the face of the landscape in this part of California for millions of years. The San Andreas Rift Zone, a series of faults, lies just east of the park. It was created when the Pacific Plate collided with and wrenched off a portion of the North American Plate. Rift zones are likely places for volcanoes to occur, for here the earth's crust is broken, allowing the magma from beneath the surface to well up. The Pinnacles are the result of these two factors at work - an ancient volcano and movement along a rift zone.


Point Reyes

Point Reyes Peninsula:19
The Point Reyes Peninsula has long baffled geologists. Why should the granite bedrock of this craggy coast match the bedrock in the southern Sierra Nevada range more than 310 miles to the south? The answer lies in plate tectonics and the continual movement of the earth's crust. Geologically, Point Reyes is a land in motion. The Peninsula rides high on the eastern edge of the Pacific plate, which creeps northwestward about two inches a year. The slower moving North American plate travels westward. In Olema Valley, near Bear Valley Visitor Center, the North American and Pacific plates grind together along the San Andreas Fault Zone. This fault zone contains many large and small faults running parallel and at odd angles to one another. Because neither plate can move freely, tremendous pressures build up. From time to time this pressure becomes too great, and the surface actually moves. This is what happened in the earthquake of 1906 when the Peninsula leaped 20 feet northwestward. As though to accent the geological separation along the San Andreas Fault, the weather may vary quite markedly on either side of Inverness Ridge. A succession of summer days on the east side may well be warm and sunny while on the ocean side a chilling fog may hide the sun.

Inverness Ridge:18
Granodiorite and granite are exposed along Inverness Ridge, where dikes and masses of aplite and alaskite are locally abundant.

Point Reyes Geology:18
The Point Reyes Peninsula is a roughly triangular projection of the Marin County coast with an apex at Point Reyes and a base along Tomales Bay and the rift valley of the San Andreas fault zone. This fault zone forms the active tectonic boundary between the Pacific and North American lithospheric plates and here separates Upper Cretaceous granitic and older metamorphic rocks of the Salinian block to the west from Upper Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous graywacke sandstone and melange of the Franciscan complex to the east. Resting nonconformably upon the crystalline basement of the Point Reyes Peninsula is a composite section of as much as 14,340 feet of moderately deformed Tertiary marine sedimentary rocks that comprise three sequences, separated by unconformities. The oldest sequence consists of as much as 700 feet of the Point Reyes Conglomerate of Galloway (1977) of early Eocene age that rests depositionally upon the porphyritic granodiorite of Point Reyes. A middle and upper Miocene sedimentary sequence is as much as 5,300 feet thick and consists of a basal sandstone unit, the Laird Sandstone, and an overlying porcelanite unit, the Monterey Formation. This Neogene sequence crops out on the southwest slope of Inverness Ridge, where it rests nonconformably upon the granodiorite and granite of Inverness Ridge.

Tomales Point:18
Hornblende-biotite tonalite that contains dark diorite inclusions forms the basement of Tomales Point. This rock is lithologically similar to the tonalite that crops out at Bodega Head about 10 kilometers to the north, and both are probably part of the same granitic mass.




Rodman Mountains

Rodman Mountains:23
A series of ridges and valleys climbing from 2,000 feet to almost 5,000 feet are the result of faults which cross this wilderness. A lava flow slices this area in two from northwest to southeast, forming a sloping mesa. Colorful escarpments, calico-colored mountains, maze-like canyons and broad, majestic bajadas come together here. Steep canyons and cliff-like walls form dry falls along deep drainage channels, creating cascades during heavy rain storms. More than a half dozen natural water "tanks" sit within the lava flow. Two of the tanks, Hidden Tank and Deep Tank, hold thousands of gallons of water. One of only seven core raptor breeding areas in the desert is within this wilderness, where prairie falcons and golden eagles are known to survive. The mountains themselves are part of the historic range of the desert bighorn sheep. While sheep have not been spotted here, this wildlife species has been seen in the nearby Newberry Mountains. Location: San Bernardino County; 30 miles southeast of Barstow, California.


Salton Buttes

Salton Buttes:15
The Salton Buttes comprise five small rhyolite domes extruded onto Quaternary sediments of the Colorado River delta. Rock Hill and Mullet Island are simple domes; Mullet Island is notable for its symmetrical "onion-skin" pattern of foliation, attributed to endogenous growth. Obsidian Butte consists of a central dome surrounded on all sides by a single flow. Red Island is made up of two domes, each mantled by subaqueous pyroclastic deposits. All the domes exhibit wave-cut benches carved during various stands of pre-historic Lake Cahuilla, and have been partly buried by lacustrine and aeolian deposits.




San Gabriel Mountains

San Gabriel Mountains:30
The San Gabriel Mountains, with elevations of nearly 7,000 feet, are composed of a complex assemblage of Precambrian through Cretaceous igneous and metamorphic rocks that have been thrust to the south over the adjacent basins.




Santa Cruz Mountains in Santa Clara County

Anderson Reservoir Dam and Anderson County Park:27
Pass the bridge over Coyote Creek (on Highway 101). Anderson Reservoir Dam can be seen blocking a former gorge through the Yerba Buena Ridge (several miles to the left). This long ridge preserves evidence of the complex geologic history related to the ongoing development of the Calaveras-Hayward fault system and the uplift of the Diablo Range. The hilltops above the dam preserve evidence of a late Tertiary volcanic lava flow that formed early in the development of the San Andreas fault system and the opening of the Santa Clara Valley. These volcanic rocks unconformably overlie highly-deformed Franciscan assemblage rocks, mostly ancient basalt, greenstone [altered basaltic volcanic rocks], serpentinite, chert, shale, and graywacke sandstone. (Graywacke is a fancy name for a “dark, poorly sorted, typically fine-grained, dirty rock.”) Some of the rocks are well-exposed near the reservoir spillway and the boat-ramp areas in Anderson County Park.

Chesbro Reservoir:27
Chesbro Reservoir boat dock - examine serpentinite exposed around the reservoir Boulders of many of the different Franciscan assemblage rocks are conveniently on display around the boat dock parking area. Boulders around the margin of the boat-dock parking area include examples of graywacke sandstone, metasandstone, greenstone (metabasalt), serpentinite, red chert, and chert breccia. These rocks occur in scattered pod-like masses (a classic mélange) exposed along the shoreline of Chesbro Reservoir. A short walk to the dam (0.2 miles) provides opportunity to view exceptional exposures of serpentinite in road cuts and in excavations along dam path. Don’t stand along the road because of the hazard of speeding cars. Instead, the safer place to examine the serpentinite is along the dam path. Some of the serpentinite displays slickensides, a linear fracture pattern caused by fault shearing motion between rock surfaces. From the opposite end of the dam you can see the back of El Toro, the peak overlooking Morgan Hill. Downstream from the reservoir, Llagas Creek flows through Paradise Valley and enters the Santa Clara Valley a couple of miles south of Morgan Hill. On the north side of the spillway is a landslide formed in the weathered serpentinite. Note the bluish-green to black color of the residual soil; the soil is rich in the clay mineral, montmorillonite.

Highway 101 Serpentinite Boulders:27
Pass the major power-grid station for San José along U.S. Highway 101. Serpentinite boulders are scattered across the hillsides on the left. This topography is, in-part, a weathering effect related to soil development in areas underlain by serpentinite. Some of the serpentinite has been silicified (chert is very chemically stable and is more resistant to erosion on the surface environment). Areas underlain by this variety of “silicified serpentinite” can be easily recognized on hillsides throughout the South Bay.

Loma Prieta:27
Loma Prieta (Spanish for “black mountain”) stands above the southern end of the Sierra Azul (Spanish for “blue mountain”). The Sierra Azul is actually a steep-sided ridge that runs along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains (including Loma Prieta and Mt. Umunhum, and two lower peaks to the north, Mt. Thayer and El Sombroso). The high ridge separates the Santa Clara Valley around San José from the San Andreas Rift valley to the southwest. Loma Prieta (3,806 feet) is the highest point in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Its summit consists of a serpentinite diapiric plug (Coast Range Ophiolite) surrounded on the east by middle Tertiary Temblor Sandstone on the east, and by Late Cretaceous sedimentary rocks (shale, mudstone, graywacke sandstone, and conglomerate - Great Valley Sequence equivalent rocks) on the west. The peak is host to a privately-owned radio tower operation.

Mt. Unumhum:27
“Umunhum” is the Ohlone Indian word for “hummingbird.” The “blockhouse” that resides at the 3,486 foot summit of Mt. Umunhum is a relict of the “Cold War” missile complex and until recently was on land owned by the U.S. Air Force. In 2001, the land was acquired and added to the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. Until environmental restoration is complete, Mt. Umunhum will remains off-limits to the public. A large cliffy exposure on the northeast face of Mt. Umunhum is one of the best Bay Area exposures of the Coast Range Ophiolite. The Coast Range Ophiolite is a piece of Middle Jurassic oceanic crust and mantle that is also known to underlie the rocks of the Great Valley throughout central California. The original oceanic crust has largely been converted to serpentinite and with extensive faulting and diapiric injection upward, some of it is migrated to its current exposures on the Earth’s surface, including this exposure on the face of Mt. Umunhum and the extensive outcrop areas throughout the Santa Cruz Mountain foothills and elsewhere.

Uvas Reservoir Dam:27
Uvas Reservoir Dam - examine pillow basalt and other rock outcrops exposed in the dam spillway and along the exposed shore. In this region the road follows an elevated terrace roughly 10 meters above the modern stream. The horse pastures in this region are littered with scattered boulders and outcrops of serpentinite and chert. Large outcrops of metachert and serpentinite that rise above the grassy landscape are called “knockers.” This stop involves less than a mile walk to the bottom of the spillway and return to the parking area near the dam. Note the variety of rock exposures along the shoreline. Nearly every rock type of the Franciscan assemblage can be found within a mile radius of the Uvas Reservoir Dam. On the shore near the south end of the dam blocks and boulders of graywacke sandstone, volcanic breccia, limestone, and other rock litter the shoreline. Examine the shoreline and note that different rock-types that occur in pod-shaped masses or as a chaotic mix. This is classic mélange typical of the Franciscan assemblage. [Read MORE about Uvaz Reservoir Geology below]




Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Moro Rock:21
Moro Rock is a dome-shaped granite monolith. Common in the Sierra Nevada, these domes form by exfoliation, the spalling or casting off in scales, plates, or sheets of rock layers on otherwise unjointed granite. Outward expansion of the granite results in exfoliations. Expansion results from load relief; when the overburden that once capped the granite has eroded away, the source of compression is removed and the granite slowly expands. Fractures that form during exfoliation tend to cut corners. This ultimately results in rounded dome-like forms.




Sheephole Mountains

Sheephole Mountains:23
The Sheephole Valley separates the Sheephole Mountains and Calumet Mountains. The Sheepholes are a steep, boulder-strewn, granitic mountain mass. The Calumets take on a similar appearance, although rising only halfway to the 4,600-foot tall Sheepholes. Bighorn sheep make their home within the Sheephole range, while the desert tortoise enjoys the valleys below. The area's lack of springs and extreme distances make wilderness travel a challenge for the most experienced desert hiker. Location: San Bernardino County; 20 miles east of Twentynine Palms, California.




Sierra Nevadas

Sierra Nevadas:6
California's Sierra Nevada ("snow-capped mountain") is a west-tilting 350-mile (560-kilometer)-long block of granite. Extending from 14,494 feet (Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states) in the east to near sea level in the west, it contains the spectacular Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. The massive granite intruded the crust in Mesozoic time and was uplifted and faulted in the Tertiary during formation of the Basin and Range province to the east. Eroded residue from the Sierra Nevada has filled the Central Valley of California, giving rise to both extensive agriculture and the 1849 Gold Rush.




Sutter Buttes

Sutter Buttes:6
Interpreted by geologists as the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Chain, the now-inactive and highly dissected Sutter Buttes show up on a map as a small circular bump that contrasts sharply with its flat surroundings in California's Central Valley. It erupted in Late Tertiary time - punching through flat-lying young sediments eroded from the rising Sierra Nevada to the east.


Turtle Mountains Wilderness

Turtle Mountains:23
Broad, open bajadas, eroded volcanic peaks, spires and cliffs converge to form the Turtle Mountains Wilderness. The volcanic formations shade the range in colors varying from deep reds, browns, tans and grays to black. The range lies in a horseshoe arrangement, parted by a large flat interior valley cut with numerous shallow washes. Places with names like Mopah Springs, Mohawk Springs, Coffin Springs and Gary Wash invite the dauntless wanderer, but do not rely on mapped springs for water. Always carry a gallon of water per person per day. Desert bighorn sheep, prairie falcon, golden eagle and desert tortoise make this wilderness area home. Location: San Bernardino County; 30 miles south of Needles, California.

Turtle Mountain Natural Area - National Natural Landmark:29
San Bernardino County - 30 miles south-southwest of Needles. Two mountain sections entirely different in composition which illustrate past volcanic phenomena with superimposed sculpturing of mountain landforms by weathering and uplift. Owner: Federal, State. DESIGNATION DATE: May 1973


Ubehebe Craters

Ubehebe Craters:16
The Ubehebe Craters include over a dozen maar volcanoes formed during hydrovolcanic eruptions of alkali basalt through permeable fanglomerate deposits on the north side of Tin Mountain. The craters formed along a range-bounding fault that marks the western margin of Tin Mountain. The volcanic center is named Ubehebe Crater, the largest tuff ring (0.8 kilometers wide, 235 meters deep) of the volcanic field. Initial eruptive activity at the center developed a scoria cone south of Ubehebe Crater. Subsequent activity was predominantly hydrovolcanic and produced two clusters of explosion craters and tuff rings west of, and south of, Ubehebe Crater. The southern cluster includes Little Hebe Crater, the second youngest crater in the field. The youngest eruptive events at the center were the episodic hydrovolcanic explosions that formed Ubehebe Crater. Ejecta from the crater covers all preexisting craters in the area. The deposits also overlie lake beds of Lake Rogers, approximately 4 kilometers north of the vent. This stratigraphic position, and the lack of erosional modification of the pyroclastic surge apron, suggest the youngest activity was Holocene. The Ubehebe Craters are accessible via a paved road, west of Scotty's Castle, at the north end of the Death Valley National Monument. The road leads to an overlook at the west side of Ubehebe Crater.




Uvaz Reservoir

Uvas Reservoir Dam:27
Uvas Reservoir Dam - examine pillow basalt and other rock outcrops exposed in the dam spillway and along the exposed shore. In this region the road follows an elevated terrace roughly 10 meters above the modern stream. The horse pastures in this region are littered with scattered boulders and outcrops of serpentinite and chert. Large outcrops of metachert and serpentinite that rise above the grassy landscape are called “knockers.” This stop involves less than a mile walk to the bottom of the spillway and return to the parking area near the dam. Note the variety of rock exposures along the shoreline. Nearly every rock type of the Franciscan assemblage can be found within a mile radius of the Uvas Reservoir Dam. On the shore near the south end of the dam blocks and boulders of graywacke sandstone, volcanic breccia, limestone, and other rock litter the shoreline. Examine the shoreline and note that different rock-types that occur in pod-shaped masses or as a chaotic mix. This is classic mélange typical of the Franciscan assemblage.

Uvas Reservoir Bedrock:27
The bedrock around Uvas Reservoir are a mélange (a great chaotic mix) of different rocks ranging in age from Early Jurassic to Eocene, representing a time span over 150 million years ending roughly 50 million years ago. Similar rocks are exposed throughout the Coast Ranges of California and are collectively named the Franciscan assemblage (or Franciscan Group, Franciscan Series, or Franciscan Complex, depending on preferences of various geologists through time). The word “assemblage” is appropriate because rocks that are included in the Franciscan originally formed in a variety of geologic settings later to be brought together and mixed along a convergent plate boundary (see fig. 6). General rock types that occur in the Franciscan assemblage include ultramafic gabbro, serpentinite, basaltic volcanic rocks, limestone (and dolostone), ribbon chert, shale, graywacke (mudstone and sandstone), serpentinite, and other materials. As the variety of rocks suggests, the origin of the Franciscan assemblage is complex; a short interpretation of its geologic history follows. The oldest Franciscan assemblage rocks include gabbro (original mantle and oceanic crust). In most places, this original rock has been completely altered to serpentinite. These rocks occur in association with pillow basalt that is inferred to have formed on a mid-ocean ridge or associated undersea volcanoes. On top of some of these volcanos, or on shallow ocean platforms, calcareous limey sediments accumulated (forming limestone similar to what is found forming on modern guyots or atolls). Through time, plate tectonic motion transported new oceanic crust into a deeper water setting where radiolarian ooze was deposited. Exposures of ribbon chert in the Santa Cruz Mountains are inferred to have formed from deep-sea ooze deposited between the Early Jurassic to the middle Cretaceous. The youngest and most common rocks in the Franciscan assemblage are graywacke mudstone, sandstone, and conglomerate. These sedimentary rocks frequently occur interbedded with shale and are interpreted as sediments having been derived from a volcanic arc and deposited via turbidity currents into a trench or deep water marginal basin offshore. The chaotic mix of rocks of the Franciscan assemblage completes the geologic history, involving plate-tectonics (crustal formation, migration, subduction, and accretion). Serpentinite forms from the metamorphic alteration and/or remelting of rocks of ultramafic composition (typical of lower oceanic crust or even Earth’s mantle). In the process of subduction and continental accretion, oceanic sediments and crust broken into bits ranging from hand specimens to mountain-sized blocks. These rocks were jumbled and crushed into one another, especially along major continental margin fault zones that formed, faded, and reformed through time. Serpentinite is unusual in that it is less dense in composition that its original host (rock consisting mostly of dunite and pyroxenite). Through time serpentinite migrates towards the surface along faults or forming plugs (or intrusions) that inject upward into the surrounding host rock.

Uvaz Reservoir Greenstone:27
In some locations around the spillway exposure, the basaltic lava has also been partially altered to greenstone. (Greenstone is a field name for a dark-green altered or metamorphosed basic volcanic rock containing the minerals chlorite, epidote, or actinolite.) The rock is also broken by fractures that are filled primarily by calcium carbonate (possibly derived from the recrystallization of the original limey ocean sediment). The outcrop is broken by several small faults, one of which displays apparent offset of the overlying soil profile. This exposure is on the north side of the cut about 100 feet south of the end of the cement spillway. Be sure to check out the composition of the stream gravel in patches along the shore. Gravel bars provide a glimpse of the various rock types derived from in the drainage area. Some of the gravel is reworked from older stream channel and floodplain deposits, now preserved as terraces, and are exposed along the hillsides below the dam.

Uvaz Reservoir Pillow Lava:27
Cross the dam and turn right. Follow the path down to the spot where the concrete spillway ends. In the creek are exposures of relatively unaltered “pillow basalt” - pillow-shaped pods of basalt formed from the rapid cooling of basaltic lava on the sea floor. Each pillow displays a chilled crust from the molten lava coming in contact with the cold ocean water. Radiometric determinations suggest these rocks formed in the Lower Cretaceous (between 100-130 million years ago). Note that some of the basaltic lava preserves vesicles (gas bubbles) and that in some places, gray, limey mudrock or limestone (or dolostone) fills in around some of the pillows. Both occurrences suggest that the lava formed in relatively shallow ocean depths, probably on a submarine volcano. Under greater ocean depths the confining pressure would prevent gas vesicles from forming in the lava. In addition, calcareous sediments are not preserved in deep ocean settings; organic pelagic remains containing calcium carbonate dissolve rapidly in cold marine water under pressure.




Whipple Mountains Wilderness

Whipple Mountains:23
The Whipple Mountains lie east to west across this wilderness. The western half of the range is created from pale green formations. A low angle fault separates the formation on the west from striking brick red volcanic formations to the east. The landscape is diverse, ranging from valley floors and washes to steep- walled canyons, domed peaks and eroded spires towering to 4,000 feet. Flowing westward from these colorful spires and domes are bajadas with isolated lava rock masses and red sandstone outcrops. Sonoran creosote bush scrub and the Sonoran thorn forest decorate the area. In addition, dense stands of palo verde, ironwood, smoke tree and cholla, saguaro, foxtail and Mojave prickly pear cacti all grow here. This unique array of vegetation support a variety of wildlife. Location: San Bernardino County; 10 miles northwest of Parker, Arizona.


Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park:
For its towering cliffs, spectacular waterfalls, granite domes and spires, glacially-sculpted and polished rock, and beautiful alpine scenery, Yosemite National Park is world famous. Nowhere else are all these exceptional features so well displayed and so easily accessible.




Excerpts from:
1) Wood, 1990, IN: Wood and Kienle, 1990, Volcanoes of North America: United States and Canada: Cambridge University Press, 354p.
2) Donnelly-Nolan, 1990, IN: Wood and Kienle, 1990, Volcanoes of North America: United States and Canada: Cambridge University Press, 354p.
3) Dzurisin, 1992, Geodetic Leveling as a Tool for Studying Restless Volcanoes, IN: Ewert and Swanson (editors), 1992, Monitoring Volcanoes: Techniques and Strategies Used by the Staff of the Cascades Volcano Observatory, 1980-1990: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1966, p.131;
4) Hill, et.al., 1996, Living With a Restless Caldera -- Long Valley, California: USGS Fact Sheet 196-96;
5) U.S. Geological Survey, California Volcano Observatory Website, 2000, 2001
6) USGS A Tapestry of Time and Terrain Website, 2001
7) U.S. National Park Service Website, Mojave National Preserve, 2000
8) U.S. National Park Service Website, Pinnacles National Monument, 2000
9) U.S. National Park Service Website, Joshua Tree National Monument, 2001
10) U.S. National Park Service Website - Lassen Volcanic National Park, 2000, 2001
11) California Desert Website, 2000
12) USGS/NPS Geology in the Parks Website, 2001
13) U.S. Forest Service Website, Region 5, 2001
14) Miller, 1980, USGS Bulletin 1503
15) Muffler, 1990, IN: Wood and Kienle, 1990, Volcanoes of North America: United States and Canada: Cambridge University Press, 354p.
16) Crowe, 1990, IN: Wood and Kienle, 1990, Volcanoes of North America: United States and Canada: Cambridge University Press, 354p.
17) California Geological Survey Website, 2001, 2002
18) Clark and Brabb, 1997, Geology of Point Reyes National Seashore and Vicinity, California: A Digital Database: USGS Open-File Report 97-456
19) U.S. National Park Service Website, Point Reyes National Seashore, 2002
20) U.S. National Park Service Website, Channel Island National Park, 2002
21) U.S. National Park Service Website, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, 2002
22) U.S. Geological Survey, Western Region Coast and Marine Geology Website, 2002
23) California Bureau of Land Management Website, 2002
24) California Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES) Website, 2003, California Resources Agency, from the California Coastal Commission's California Coastal Resource Guide
25) Greeley, 1990, IN: Wood and Kienle, 1990, Volcanoes of North America: United States and Canada: Cambridge University Press, 354p.
26) Grose, 1990, IN: Wood and Kienle, 1990, Volcanoes of North America: United States and Canada: Cambridge University Press, 354p.
27) Stoffer and Messina, 2002, Field-Trip Guide to the Southeastern Foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Santa Clara County, California: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-121.
28) Stoffer and Messina, 2002, Field-Trip Guide to the Geology of the Lexington Reservoir and Loma Prieta Areas in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties, California: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-221.
29) U.S. National Park Service, National Natural Landmarks Website, 2003
30) California Department of Conservation, Division of Mines and Geology, Open-File Report 2000-005, Seismic Hazard Evaluation of the Mt. Baldy 7.5-Minute Quadrangle, Los Angeles County, California.


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09/19/03, Lyn Topinka