Archive for the ‘the hayward fault’ Category

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:


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:


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

Oakland Conglomerate II

12 March 2009

Here are some of the samples I collected from the Oakland Conglomerate last month.

oakland conglomerate

This rock is utterly and thoroughly brown, deeply brown with iron oxides. You can’t scrub it off—it’s brown all the way down. That reflects two facts: the matrix is iron-rich volcanic material and it’s been pervasively shattered and flushed with fluids under oxidizing conditions to let the iron out. The clasts—the bigger stones in the conglomerate—are beautifully rounded, presumably in a vigorous river or beach. But the setting of Oakland at this time, in the Cretaceous, was way offshore in a shallow sea. It appears that all this coarse material was carried offshore in underwater landslides and laid down in a deep series of sandstones and conglomerate beds.

oakland conglomerate

Long after the conglomerate was laid down and lithified, the plate boundaries changed and the San Andreas fault system (including the Hayward fault) splintered coastal California and wrenched it northward, one earthquake at a time, for tens of millions of years. The forces of that time have crunched nearly every stone in the Oakland Conglomerate. Yet at the time these rocks were still deeply buried, and chemical action and pressure cemented the stones back together. The clasts are delicate, but intact. It’s impressive to imagine the force that shattered these hard stones like so many soda crackers. The next thing I want to do is open some of them with my hammer and see what the original lithologies are.

The Oakland Conglomerate

7 February 2009

oakland conglomerate

The Oakland Conglomerate extends from Montclair, a little north of Snake Road, south along the whole southern end of Skyline Boulevard and beyond Lake Chabot to the northern outskirts of Castro Valley. It’s part of the Great Valley Complex, a huge sedimentary pile spilled off the ancient Sierra/Klamath ranges in Late Cretaceous time, specifically the Turonian and/or Cenomanian ages (about 90 to 100 million years ago). This may be its northernmost exposure, on a fire road across from the Shepherd Canyon fire station where a basketball court has been cut out of the hillside. I brought home some samples and hope to have fun with them soon.

oakland conglomerate

What’s cool about this rock unit is that the big clasts are almost all cracked or shattered or dinged up. That doesn’t happen to these potato-sized chunks of quartzite and granite in riverbeds or the seashore, where the stones were originally shaped. Researchers at Cal State East Bay have argued that they were damaged by thousands of earthquakes on the Hayward fault as they lay buried some 5 kilometers down.

This rock unit is actually mostly sandstone, especially the farther south you go. It crops out all the way down to the Alum Rock area.

Earthquake day II

20 October 2008

hayward fault earthquake

October 21 is the date of the 1868 Hayward earthquake. It was on the order of a magnitude 7 and caused widespread destruction plus a couple dozen deaths. Over the last 2000 years, the Hayward fault has had large earthquakes at an average of every 140 years, and this year marks 140 years since 1868. There will be a public gathering on the 21st, at the Mission San Jose, at 7:55 a.m., the time of the quake. (At least it wasn’t at 5:13 a.m. like the 1906 quake.)

Unfortunately the officials are making the same mistake the San Franciscans do, which is to ignore daylight saving time and time zones generally. In 1868, cities determined their time locally from astronomical noon (or used the time of a larger regional city), so the contemporary time must be adjusted for us to experience the setting of that earthquake at the correct time of day. I don’t happen to know if Hayward used San Francisco time in that year, or if both cities used Sacramento time. In 1906, California was on Pacific standard time year-round, and 5:13 a.m. on April 18 was nearly sunrise, but nowadays they observe the moment, in a ceremony at Lotta’s Fountain, in the dark of night an hour earlier.

Oh, the photo? It’s the little valley across the freeway north of the zoo, where Arroyo Viejo makes a right-hand jog as it crosses the Hayward fault. We’re looking across the fault from Calandria Avenue in early 2005. The hill on the far side is a shutter ridge, cruising north at a long-term rate of about half an inch a year, which it does in meter-sized jumps every couple centuries. (It moved in 1868.) The hill has a large covered reservoir on top of it, to the left of this photo; you could easily imagine it rupturing in a large quake. That doesn’t mean it will rupture, because it’s well engineered, but it’s easy to imagine it failing. In the middle is Holy Redeemer College.

Cal Stadium and the Hayward fault

10 September 2008

I mentioned UC Berkeley’s Andrew Lawson in connection with the Claremont Shale. Lawson also recognized, mapped and named the Hayward fault. It was very well known that the fault crossed the upper part of the Cal campus, and Lawson was not shy about it in 1921, when the University planned its big new stadium right atop the active trace. Like all geologists, Lawson knew that in a bet against nature, nature tends to win, but as a professor he also knew that in a bet against the university, professors tend to lose. So Cal Memorial Stadium sits where it sits, being slowly pulled apart by aseismic creep. (Lawson’s own home, at 1515 La Loma Avenue in Berkeley, was designed for earthquake resistance by Bernard Maybeck.)

Here’s the canonical view of the offset looking up from the parking lot at its south end.

cal stadium

Immediately east is this chunk of lumber amid the stadium’s reinforced concrete. It’s important to remember that good codes and good designs don’t ensure good construction.

cal stadium

Underneath the structure, there are cracked columns in many places. This one, cracked on its south side, shows that the ground is being carried north while the stadium, being a fairly rigid structure, is stationary.

cal stadium

The stadium is actually built in halves, with the idea that during an earthquake the two sides would gently slip past each other. No one knew about creep at the time. These two columns have been pulled out of parallel over the years.

cal stadium

Lawson may have thought that the stadium design was OK. He was not aware of much we have learned about faults and earthquakes since his time.

Shutter ridges

31 July 2008

A reader was unclear on the concept of shutter ridges, so I thought I’d try to show it as well as tell it. Look closely at this excerpt from the Oakland geologic map covering Lake Temescal.

shutter ridge map

The lake is the blue blob near the top. The Hayward fault slashes through it and across the map from top to bottom. The left (west) side moves north with every major earthquake on the fault. The blue area labeled KJfm (Cretaceous-Jurassic Franciscan mélange) is part of what I refer to as the Piedmont block; it makes up the ridge you see across the lake:

lake temescal

As that ridge moves north, it cuts off the course of Temescal Creek and forces it to flow north to get around it. That’s where the “shutter” term comes from—the ridge barrier moves like the shutter of an old-fashioned box camera. You can see on the map how Temescal Creek flows today, after tens of thousands of years of this process: it comes downhill on the right edge of the map, jogs to its right for almost a mile, goes through Lake Temescal, then turns left around the curve of Route 24 (the double purple line) in a culvert to resume its course to the bay. See the ridge from another perspective in this post.

Another excellent example is on the fault just north of the Oakland Zoo, where Arroyo Viejo comes down Golf Links Road and makes a similar jog around the hill of Toler Heights before resuming its bayward course under 82d Avenue:


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