Paleoseismic investigations across the Mission Creek strand of the San Andreas fault at Thousand Palms Oasis indicate that four and probably five surface-rupturing earthquakes occurred during the past 1200 years. Calendar age estimates for these earthquakes are based on a chronological model that incorporates radiocarbon dates from 18 in situ burn layers and stratigraphic ordering constraints. These five earthquakes occurred in about A.D. 825 (770–890) (mean, 95% range), A.D. 982 (840–1150), A.D. 1231 (1170–1290), A.D. 1502 (1450–1555), and after a date in the range of A.D. 1520–1680. The most recent surface-rupturing earthquake at Thousand Palms is likely the same as the A.D. 1676 ± 35 event at Indio reported by Sieh and Williams (1990). Each of the past five earthquakes recorded on the San Andreas fault in the Coachella Valley strongly overlaps in time with an event at the Wrightwood paleoseismic site, about 120 km northwest of Thousand Palms Oasis. Correlation of events between these two sites suggests that at least the southernmost 200 km of the San Andreas fault zone may have ruptured in each earthquake. The average repeat time for surface-rupturing earthquakes on the San Andreas fault in the Coachella Valley is 215 ± 25 years, whereas the elapsed time since the most recent event is 326 ± 35 years. This suggests the southernmost San Andreas fault zone likely is very near failure.
The Thousand Palms Oasis site is underlain by a series of six channels cut and filled since about A.D. 800 that cross the fault at high angles. A channel margin about 900 years old is offset right laterally 2.0 ± 0.5 m, indicating a slip rate of 4 ± 2 mm/yr. This slip rate is low relative to geodetic and other geologic slip rate estimates (26 ± 2 mm/yr and about 23–35 mm/yr, respectively) on the southernmost San Andreas fault zone, possibly because (1) the site is located in a small step-over in the fault trace and so the rate is not be representative of the Mission Creek fault, (2) slip is partitioned northward from the San Andreas fault and into the eastern California shear zone, and/or (3) slip is partitioned onto the Banning strand of the San Andreas fault zone.