Geranium Place rocks and runoff

27 July 2014

Geranium Place occupies a sloping bit of land just north of Horseshoe Creek below Redwood Road. This map shows the location plus the sites of the photos in this post.

geraniummap

The bedrock here is mapped as Franciscan melange on the west and the Leona volcanics on the east, the same stuff exposed in the huge Leona Quarry just down the Warren Freeway. The rocks I saw were clearly the latter, but you have to take the lines on the geologic map as approximations. If I’d been there fifty years ago when the homes here were being built I might have been able to tell better, while the foundations were exposed. BUT! there is bedrock to look at in any case.

The first thing that caught my eye, though, was the gutters. What’s going on here?

geranium1

Iron-rich runoff like this is not expected from undisturbed land. Perhaps the area was once a borrow pit or small quarry. Across Horseshoe Creek is the big quarrying operation above Laundry Canyon, and just beyond is the notorious McDonell sulfur mine site, so naturally the resemblance to the nasty-looking streambed down there is striking. What etched away the cement in the gutter? Probably not acid drainage.

geranium2

The white crust is another clue. In our deathly dry conditions it might conceivably have been salt, but it had no taste when I nibbled a fragment of it. It’s probably either gypsum or carbonate; without any chemicals handy I couldn’t learn anything more. But a buildup of crystals like this could gradually disintegrate the cement in the gutter. It may also be seepage from the serpentine exposed along and above Redwood Road here. In sum, very hard water here, but probably not nasty water.

The bedrock is heavily iron-stained and chewed up. Being so near the Hayward fault (it grazes the lower left corner of the map area) surely accounts for that.

geranium3

Some of the households here have worked with it to good effect.

geranium4

A closeup is impressive.

geranium5

This is breccia—pervasively shattered rock—that has been abraded by tectonic shearing so the pieces are rounded, as if you took crushed rock and rubbed it between your hands with a giant’s strength. It’s fairly well cemented, not crumbling apart, so this process happened at some depth.

At the northernmost bend of Geranium, up against the highly cantilevered Redwood Road, the ground is empty and there are monitoring wells of some sort. We have deeply disturbed this area.

Courtland Creek cut

19 July 2014

Courtland Creek runs just south of High Street; presumably the valley was a footpath long before High Street was laid out in the 1800s. It has the peculiarity of crossing the old alluvial fan without cutting out a floodplain, as shown here in the geologic map.

courtlandcreekgeo

I visited it a few weeks ago. As you go upstream along Courtland Avenue, this dirt road appears. Dirt roads are always interesting in this city.

courtlandcreekrow

It’s the old right of way for the Key Route line, and it leads to Courtland Creek Park, a cool streamside strip with some understated concrete work meant to evoke the history of the area. At one point there’s some unusually elaborate rockwork leading down to the creek itself.

courtlandcreekrockwork

Farther upsteam, too, is a cut into the side of the Maxwell Park hill; this view is looking back west.

courtlandcreekwall

And at the upper end of the park is one of those excellent mosaic trashcans that make this city so special.

courtlandcreekcan

As I’ve mentioned before, the topography of this part of Oakland, in the Allendale flat, suggests to me that the drainage has switched between streams at various times. It will be fun to poke around here some more.

BTW please see the Q&A page for an announcement.

Casting pond, upper Lion Creek

26 June 2014

One of Oakland’s most beautiful places is tucked in the woods next to the Warren Freeway at Carson Street: the casting pond complex of McCrea Memorial Park, along Lion Creek. Entering the park took my breath away the first time I visited.

castingponds

Lion Creek leaves the grounds of Holy Names University and runs in a steep gorge behind Elinora Avenue, evading the freeway for a short stretch that includes the park. Horseshoe Creek joins it at the south end, and the combined stream enters a culvert beneath the freeway running to the Mills College campus.

This part of the streambed is highly engineered. The 1947 topo map shows an ordinary stream valley here with an intermittent stream indicated, so the wide glade for the ponds was built and the stream shunted aside. Farther downstream are some empty ponds whose purpose I don’t know; perhaps one of you does.

lion-creek-at-mccrea-park

The woods have made the area their own. This was once part of Leona Heights Park, which was cut in half by the freeway, and a pedestrian bridge that may be Oakland’s least-used one connects the two sides.

Hayward fault slickensides

9 June 2014

Here’s an odd curio that I spotted down in Menlo Park at the U.S. Geological Survey campus. During a trenching study of the Hayward fault up at Point Pinole, the active trace was uncovered and this plaster cast was made. It sits by the entrance of the Map Sales Room in Building 3.

HF-slicks

Today we would make a lidar scan of a surface like this to document its slickensides in a precise database. But you have to feel some affection for this low-tech artifact, which presumably has also been scanned to ensure its immortality.

Lion Creek restoration

5 June 2014

Down at the mouth of Lion Creek, at what most of us still think of as Coliseum Gardens, the authorities have undone a bit of historic damage to the habitat. A rehabilitation project dug a new channel next to the existing culvert and installed water gates at both ends to manage the flow—brackish tidal water at the Bay end and floodwater at the hill end. After four years, it’s looking the way it was intended. Here’s the view downstream from the Lion Way overcrossing, with the Coliseum in back and the Lion Creek Crossings community all around.

coli-gardens-creek

Here’s the map view. The airphoto is kinda old, but it shows you the plan.

coli-gardens-map

The ground where I was standing is mapped at about 8 feet elevation. The other end of the park is approximately where the historic coastal marsh started, so they’re doing the right thing for this location. The culvert is still there to handle floods, but a real creek bed evolves to coexist with floods. So what we have now is sort of a zoo creek. I’ll take it over what was there before.

Cost estimates vary from $4 to $5 million to create this acre and a half of habitat. Looked at another way, that’s what it costs to lose a plain old natural creek bed, doing what it does best.

More from the City of Oakland

Alameda County calls it a “natural channel”

Alameda County Flood Control district calls it “a natural bypass creek”

Salt weathering (tafoni)

11 May 2014

San Francisco does a few geological things better than Oakland. Here’s one.

tafoni

Salt air, specifically salt spray, causes this dramatic pitting in sandstone of the breakwater out by the Golden Gate Yacht Club, on the way to the Wave Organ. San Francisco simply gets more of that raw sea wind that splashes seawater onto the rocks. As the brine dries out, salt crystals grow in the pore spaces and gradually pry the mineral grains apart. This process, called cavernous or honeycomb weathering, affects inland sites where the rock itself contains some salt (Mount Diablo and Las Trampas Ridge have good examples), but along the coast it acts much faster and more pervasively. The hollows are often called tafoni, however that term is properly used for large hollows. Little ones are called alveoli.

You might see some of this in Oakland rocks, but only down in the port, if there. I can’t think of a good example. The riprap boulders in our port are mostly hard igneous rocks that are much more impervious to water.

The Hayward fault in Redwood Heights

3 May 2014

It happens that a commenter asked about the Hayward fault hazard in an area that I surveyed only yesterday, just south of the part of town I discussed back in January under “The 35th Avenue cut, Jordan swale and the Franciscan spike.” This post looks strictly at the Hayward fault between 35th and 39th Avenues and not, as I usually prefer, at the bedrock (there’s almost none to be seen here anyway). Here’s the fault trace, as mapped in 1992 by the US Geological Survey.

RedwdHightsfaultmap

First, note that the map is tipped clockwise to make the fault run vertically. The fault is mapped here with an uncertainty of less than 40 meters; the ticks on the dashes indicate the downhill side. To help orient you, here’s much the same area in Google Maps, tilted to match.

HF-RedwoodHights-map

The two arrowheads mark where the fault is mapped and the two numbers are the localities I’m showing below. The lower arrowhead coincides with the fiduciary mark on 39th Avenue.

The first locality is the lower end of Dunsmuir Avenue at Victor Avenue, where the street curbs are offset to the right.

HF-dunsmuir-victor

The offset is more subtle on the south side (to the right in this view). The pavement on the corner is cracked, but that can happen when a garbage truck cuts across it, to name just one possibility. But there is an offset there, along with a recent sawcut to help gauge any motion there.

HFmark-dunsmuir-corner

To the north, the next street to cross the fault trace is Atlas Avenue. The curb is offset there, too.

HF-atlas

This is marked on the 1992 fault map with the notation “C2,rc,rs,ec.” That signifies “distinct creep evidence, right-laterally offset curb [and] sidewalk, en echelon left-stepping cracks in pavement.” The cracks are not evident now; presumably they were where the pavement has been patched. Offset concrete is harder to hide. (On 39th Avenue the code also includes “right-laterally offset fence line,” “surveyed offset feature” and the code L91 for a particular report documenting the survey.)

The features marked “G” are geomorphic ones, G2 for “distinct” and G3 for “weakly pronounced.” The codes are as follows: sl, linear scarp; lv, linear valley; ss, swale in saddle; df, fault-related depression.

The land is weird here. Drainage from the reservoir area appears to run north instead of west, perhaps feeding the head of Courtland Creek just south of 35th as I envisioned it happening from north of 35th too. If that’s correct, it would be another example of an offset streamcourse (and a corresponding shutter ridge). As earthquakes and creep affect the landscape here, water could shift from one drainage to another in this area where three different creeks run very close to one another.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,096 other followers