Archive for June, 2009

Dunsmuir Ridge and the Irvingtonian gravels

26 June 2009

Just northwest of Lake Chabot are some tiny areas mapped as “Irvington Gravels,” high above the Sheffield Village neighborhood in the Dunsmuir Ridge Open Space. They caught my eye because Irvington (part of present-day Fremont) is the site of a famous set of Ice Age fossils, from which the Irvingtonian age of North American land mammals was established. Yesterday I checked the area out, in case there were some sabertooth-cat fangs lying around. This entry has a lot of photos.

You get there starting at the access at the end of Covington Road, a dirt fire road that goes straight up a steep hillside. The Hayward fault crosses the road partway up, at a little level spot at the edge of the woods. To the west of the fault, the rocks are mapped as San Leandro gabbro (Jurassic rocks of the Coast Range Ophiolite), but it’s really hard to tell:

dunsmuir ridge

Across the fault the rocks change to Late Jurassic volcanic rocks of the Great Valley Sequence, the same stuff exposed in the big Leona quarry:

dunsmuir ridge

Higher up are three small terraces where the gravel is mapped. This is looking south from the northernmost one:

dunsmuir ridge

It looks like a hopeless task to find rocks here. Luckily for me, the fire roads have recently been graded, so there was a window into the substrate. As I approached the terraces, the roadbed started to display river cobbles, quite unexpected in this setting:

dunsmuir ridge

I made a point of crossing the grassy slope to the other two terraces, looking for stones the whole way. Nada. From the southernmost terrace, here’s the view north. Click on the picture for a stereopair:

stereopair

There’s a house on a knoll at the same height as the terraces. The upper part of the Knowland Park Zoo land also lines up with the terraces. No gravel is mapped at either place, but there might be some.

Now the cobbles in the roadbed start to look interesting:

dunsmuir ridge

Above is another, higher terrace. It’s over 500 feet above the starting point and a bit of a trudge.

dunsmuir ridge

Just below it are scattered outcrops of the volcanic bedrock:

outcrop

The roadbeds on the upper terrace also have interesting cobbles. I took a few home to clean up and photograph. Remind me to bring them back on my next visit.

rocks

Russ Graymer, who prepared the Oakland geologic map, describes the suite of cobbles thus: “Cobbles . . . consist of about 60 percent micaceous sandstone, 35 percent metamorphic and volcanic rocks and chert probably derived from the Franciscan complex, and 5 percent black laminated chert and cherty shale derived from the Claremont Formation.” He holds that these little terraces started out near Fremont and were carried here by the Hayward fault. They started out at a much lower elevation too, I would think; just a sign that fault movements are not straightforward.

Unexpected crystals

19 June 2009

crystal

You don’t see a lot of crystals in Oakland rocks. But stopping to examine the boulders in the walls at 166 Tunnel Road, just over the Berkeley line along the Hayward fault, I was arrested by this perfect quartz crystal in a coarse-grained marble block. It’s maybe a centimeter long.

Suiseki time again

12 June 2009

I brought up the topic of suiseki last summer, and now it’s that time again. This weekend, Saturday and Sunday, is the annual suiseki show at the Lakeside Garden Center from 10 to 5, no charge.

suiseki

This was one of the stones on display at the 2005 show. It’s part of my gallery of Earth art on About.com, too.

Unfortunately I must miss this show. Fortunately, I will be touring the gold mines of the Sierra foothills instead.

Amygdules

9 June 2009

I visited Sibley Volcanic Reserve on Sunday and was transfixed by this:

amygdules

The light-colored blobs are amygdules, or fossil bubbles. Many of the lava flows that issued from a small volcano here about 10 million years ago were full of gas bubbles. Later those filled with minerals, and today the amygdules are weathering out. The minerals involved include quartz, its noncrystalline variety chalcedony, and various zeolite minerals. Read a little more about them on my About.com site. Amygdules were named by a Berkeley geology professor, Joseph Le Conte, in 1878. He surely saw them in these very hills.

I also sought out the labyrinths and found three localities. The first one is on the north side of Round Top, hidden in a sweet spot surrounded by vegetation and butterflies.

Chabot Road and the fault

4 June 2009

It was a good day yesterday to visit the Hayward fault at the top of Chabot Road. The previous night’s rain softened the ground and left the cut weeds smelling like fresh hay. This is the view north from the ground above the end of the road.

chabot road fault

All of this land is suspect today, and the rocks cannot be trusted. The high ground I was standing on is the rubble pile built to support Route 24. The high ground on the right is an old excavation or rubble pile, I’m not sure which, supporting the loop linking Route 24 west and Route 13 south. The flat ground is the former roadbed of the Oakland & Antioch Railway. The trees in the distance are on a rocky slope that roughly marks the Hayward fault, but it may well have been quarried in the past. The nice thing about a fault, for producers of crushed rock aggregate, is that it pre-crushes the rocks. But the fault is somewhere in this view, although it’s poorly mapped between the Claremont Resort and Montclair.

buckling

With that preamble, I feel free to speculate that the fault trace could possibly nip Chabot Road at its farthest end. We see displacement of the curbs, and at the farther joint we see evidence of compression. In both photos the near side would be west of the fault, moving leftward.

cracking

But just as likely, this trodden, retreaded land is shifting and settling all by itself. There may be slow landsliding involved. Also, heavy trucks and other vehicles could well have done this damage. The truth may come out after the next big earthquake ruptures the fault here. It’s one place I want to check out in the aftermath, if I’m lucky enough.

Two dams

1 June 2009

I was asked the other day about the safety of living below Oakland’s dams. We have two of them, both of which I happened to photograph in March 2003 (back when I was still using film). Anthony Chabot built them both. This is the dam at Chabot Reservoir, at the very south end of Oakland. The Hayward fault is a couple hundred meters downstream.

chabot dam

This is the dam at Lake Temescal.

temescal dam

Both are earthen dams, basically massive piles of clay and boulders. The first was built in 1874-75 and the second in 1868. As the “great San Francisco earthquake” occurred on the Hayward fault in 1868, seismic safety was high in people’s minds. Here’s a page about their construction. These dams are generally considered sound and able to withstand another big one. Lake Temescal straddles the Hayward fault, but the dam is so massive and the water it holds so modest that even a 2-meter displacement on the fault will not lead to a dangerous failure, as I understand it.

The Calaveras Dam, farther south near Milpitas, is also of earthen construction. It crosses the Calaveras fault and is being replaced with a safer design; in the meantime the Calaveras Reservoir has been drained to half its volume.


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