Abstract

An exceptionally well exposed marine-nonmarine transition in middle Miocene strata exists in the southeastern Caliente Range, California. About 50 individual progradational sequences form a succession that ranges in thickness from approximately 1000 m (where predominantly nonmarine) to more than 2500 m (where predominantly marine). Paleogeographic evidence in basalt flows near the top of the succession and in overlying fluvial deposits indicates that these middle Miocene strata were deposited across a north-northwest trending shoreline. A complete progradational sequence typically is several meters to a few tens of meters thick and includes strata that represent three intertonguing stratigraphic units. Individual sequences generally rest on a thin gravel deposit interpreted as a transgressive lag on an erosional surface. The gravel is overlain by structureless siltstone or fine-grained sandstone deposited at water depths where the rate of faunal mixing exceeded that of production of structures by physical processes. These rocks grade upward into bedded fine sandstone deposited closer to shore where physical processes exceeded bioturbation. Crossbedded lenses of coarse sand or fine gravel in the upper part of this facies suggest the presence of fairly long-period surface waves. The bedded fine sandstone is sharply overlain by a cross bedded coarse sandstone facies that is interpreted as a combined offshore bar-rip channel-surf zone assemblage. Cross-strata dip dominantly offshore, suggesting substantial deposition from rip currents. A secondary, shoreparallel mode of cross-strata direction suggests longshore currents produced by surface waves from the northwest. The crossbedded coarse-grained sandstone grades upward into planar-bedded medium-grained sandstone that is interpreted as a beach foreshore. This facies grades upward through structureless medium-grained sandstone into nonmarine or lagoonal red and green mudstone of the Caliente Formation. The middle Miocene succession was deposited in a subsiding basin that was otherwise remarkably stable tectonically; the position of the strand line differed no more than a few kilometers through a period of 1 to 3 m.y. The average duration of the transgressive-regressive cycles, a few tens of thousands of years, together with their distribution in groups of three or four in the lower two-thirds of the succession, is consistent with the pattern of long-term climatic cycles produced by periodicity of the earth's solar orbit and may be related to eustatic sea level changes attendant to the development of the Antarctic ice cap. Changes in the pattern of progradation in the upper part of the succession and nearby basaltic eruptions may have been precursors to the onset of movement along the San Andreas fault in this area 12-14 m.y. ago.

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