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Abstract

The main destination of this field trip is the San Andreas fault in Marin County, where the ground rupture of the 1906 earthquake is well preserved within the boundaries and easements of Point Reyes National Seashore. In addition to three stops along the fault, the field guide also describes stops to view the Golden Gate Bridge and White's Hill slide on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard near the town of Fairfax, and it discusses the geology along the way. Figure 1 shows the location of the stops for this field trip. Excellent online fieldtrip guides to the geology of Point Reyes peninsula, the Marin Headlands, and the San Andreas fault are available on the Internet (Stoffer, 2005; Elder, 2005).

The great San Francisco earthquake of 18 April 1906 was generated by rupture of at least 435 km of the northern San Andreas fault (Lawson, 1908). The earthquake produced maximum horizontal offsets of 16–20 ft (5–6 m) along the San Andreas fault north of San Francisco and smaller offsets south of the city. In Marin County, there has been very little urbanization along the fault. Prior to the establishment of the National Seashore in 1962, most of the region was used for dairy farming and cattle ranching. Because the region remains largely as it was in the late nineteenth century, conditions are ideal for investigating how the morphology of the rupture has changed in the 100 years since the earthquake. Furthermore, this section of the San Andreas fault continues to yield important data about dates of prehistoric earthquakes and the slip rate of the fault.

Two fundamentally different types of bedrock underlie Marin County (Fig. 2). Right-lateral shear along the San Andreas transform plate boundary during the late Cenozoic has juxtaposed Franciscan subduction zone rocks on the east against the Salinian terrane of Point Reyes peninsula to the west. The Franciscan Assemblage (Complex) is a highly deformed, lithologically heterogeneous sequence of metamorphosed volcanic and sedimentary rocks accreted to western North American during subduction of the Farallon plate in the Mesozoic. The Salinian terrane is a displaced fragment of continental crust that consists of Cretaceous plutonic and older metamorphic rock overlain by lower Eocene to Pliocene marine sedimentary rocks (Clark and Brabb, 1997). In between the Franciscan and Salinian terranes lies a valley created by the San Andreas fault zone that is characterized by Quaternary deposition and low ridges and depressions elongated parallel or subparallel to the fault.

Along the route of this field trip on our way to the San Andreas fault, road cuts expose the world-famous, Franciscan Accretionary Complex rocks including oceanic pillow basalts (greenstone) overlain by radiolarian chert, graywacke sandstone, and “mélange” (from the French word for “mixture”), with inclusions of greenstone, chert, serpentinite, and graywacke. Isolated outcrops or knobs of erosion-resistant rocks within a surrounding matrix of highly sheared shale of the mélange typify the topography of grass-covered slopes of eastern Marin County. During the trip we will also travel through a forest of redwood trees near Samuel Taylor State Park en route to the Douglas-fir–covered Point Reyes peninsula.

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