Abstract

A paleoseismic investigation across the Santa Cruz Mountains section of the San Andreas fault at Mill Canyon indicates that four surface‐rupturing earthquakes have occurred there during the past ∼500  years. At this site, right‐lateral fault slip has moved a low shutter ridge across the mouth of the canyon, ponding latest Holocene sediments. These alluvial deposits are deformed along a narrow zone of faulting. There is excellent evidence for a 1906 (M 7.8) and three earlier earthquakes consisting of well‐developed fissures, scarps, and colluvial wedges. Deformation resulting from the earlier earthquakes is comparable to that from 1906, suggesting they also were large‐magnitude events. The earthquake prior to 1906 occurred either about A.D. 1750 (1711–1770) or A.D. 1855 (1789–1904), depending on assumptions incorporated into two alternative OxCal models. If the later age range is correct, then the earthquake may have been a historical early‐to‐mid‐nineteenth‐century earthquake, possibly the A.D. 1838 earthquake. Both models are viable, and there is no way to select one over the other with the available data. Two earlier earthquakes occurred about A.D. 1690 (1660–1720) and A.D. 1522 (1454–1605). Using OxCal, recalculation of the age of the reported penultimate earthquake reported from the Grizzly Flat site, located about 10 km northwest of Mill Canyon, indicates it occurred about A.D. 1105–1545, earlier than any of the past three earthquakes, and possibly correlates to the fourth earthquake at Mill Canyon.

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