A systematic comparison of available detrital modes for graywacke sandstones of the Franciscan subduction complex and for coeval sandstones of the Great Valley sequence in the California Coast Ranges indicates that both were apparently derived from the same general sources. The inferred provenance terrane was the ancestral Sierran-Klamath magmatic arc, from which mixed volcanic and plutonic detritus readily entered the adjacent Great Valley forearc basin. At intervals along the trend of the arc-trench system, arc-derived detritus also bypassed the forearc region through submarine canyons that fed the Franciscan trench. Longitudinal flow along both the Great Valley trough and the Franciscan trench achieved wide dispersal of the turbidite sediment.
Suites of both Franciscan and Great Valley samples include an array of subquartzose compositions ranging from feldspatholithic to lithofeldspathic. Mean framework modes of 17 Franciscan suites comprising 203 individual samples, and of 23 Great Valley suites comprising 410 individual samples, range from 14% to 44% quartz grains, 15% to 54% feldspar grains, and 7% to 71% total lithic fragments. The ratio of quartz to feldspar remains relatively constant as the proportion of lithic fragments changes. The compositional variations reflect differences mainly in the admixture of lithic fragments derived principally from volcanic cover with quartz, and feldspar derived principally from erosion of underlying plutons. Despite major overlap in the compositions of the two sets of samples, some Franciscan sandstones are somewhat more feldspathic and less lithic than any known Great Valley counterparts and were probably derived from segments of the arc terrane where exposures of plutons were more extensive than within typical Great Valley sources. Higher proportions of non-volcanic to volcanic lithic fragments in some Franciscan sandstones probably reflect complex recycling processes on the trench slope. Diagenetic effects in many Franciscan suites include apparent wholesale replacement of K-feldspar by albite.
Present age control is inadequate to test fully for time-dependent trends in the compositions of Franciscan sandstones analogous to the known stratigraphic variations in the composition of Great Valley sandstones. This question ought to be investigated in future studies.