Claremont chert closeup; or, Oakland hills are falling down

On Grizzly Peak Boulevard, pretty much right above the Caldecott Tunnel, there’s a little old fire road that heads downhill to the west. I poked my nose down it the other day. The whole area has excellent exposures of the Claremont chert, starting with the roadside.

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It’s real nice right now. The ground is moist and makes for quiet walking. Pine needles smell great. The rock is pretty.

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There’s a spot where a lot of loose rock has tumbled down. The Claremont can be crumbly, because it’s so brittle, even though the stone itself is rather hard. The loose stuff is good for collecting a specimen if you’re into that. Unlike the bleached stone exposed along the ridgetop, there’s some variety here, including the black, kerogen-rich stuff that has made this formation, like its larger cousin the Monterey Shale, good petroleum source rock.

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During the Caldecott Tunnel dig, this formation leaked significant amounts of oil and gas into the working space. Precautions had to be taken. The same black Claremont crops out at Alum Rock, as I showed you a few years ago, as well as at the Calaveras Dam site.

That’s all fun. But the road’s cut off by a washout ripped into the hillside, a twisted galvanized drainpipe sprawled along its path. At some risk, I scrambled across it and noted that at its floor lies the Claremont chert, which has its bedding planes oriented only slightly steeper than the gully. Treacherous ground. I don’t recommend that you follow me.

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And just beyond it is another gully, somewhat bigger but not eroding as actively. Giving up on the fire road, I scrambled up to Grizzly Peak Boulevard and this is what’s at the top of that gully.

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At the top of the active washout is this innocuous-looking street drain.

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As far as I can tell, every one of these cute drains is carving gouges into the hillside. This one points toward the Parkwood condos.

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Can’t we do better than this?

Perhaps our children can revise the old playground song to “Oakland hills are falling down.”

A lot of my outings are like this — mixtures of pleasure and concern.

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One Response to “Claremont chert closeup; or, Oakland hills are falling down”

  1. Matthew Says:

    I really enjoy your posts about Oakland geology. Next time I visit my daughter in Oakland (she lives in Fruitvale) I will traipse the hills in your footsteps. Thanks!

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