Archive for the ‘oakland geology puzzles’ Category

Lincoln Square – ochre and serpentine

28 January 2014

The Lincoln Square shopping center is a little neighborhood-scale set of shops on Redwood Road next to Route 13. It’s not very natural but it has some interesting natural features. Here’s the topography in Google Maps.

lincsqmap

The graded area sits across the small valley of uppermost Lion Creek, running due south from top center. (A second branch of Lion Creek is to the west cutting through Holy Names University.) Its east edge is a cut into the hillside, exposing a bunch of serpentine rock. It’s the little strip of purple on the geologic map of the same area.

lincsqgeomap

You can see the rock next to the parking lot . . .

lincsqserpcrop

. . . and in more detail behind the Safeway and the other building full of shops. This exposure is quite spectacular, but I was just doing a reconnaissance and didn’t linger.

lincsqserpcut

I was actually visiting here to look for signs of the aboriginal hematite workings. This is where the local tribes came to dig Oakland ochre. This is as close as I got to that, a boulder rich in iron oxides along the north driveway entrance.

lincsqredrock

I have only the most preliminary ideas about this area. The map classifies this area as Franciscan sandstone, and this boulder doesn’t contradict that. There are other brief nods to the original landscape studding the parking lot, but on whole it’s pretty sorry-looking.

lincsqredrockdisplay

My idea is that in this part of the world the development of ochre requires serpentinite and a suitable host rock for the oxides to grow, and that the process happens underground at the base of the soil. It takes careful excavation by nature to reveal this fragile material without washing it away, and Lion Creek and the Hayward fault (on the left edge of the map) combined to do that here.

The 35th Avenue cut, Jordan swale and the Franciscan spike

18 January 2014

If you’ve read this blog over the years you’ve seen me talk about the Piedmont block, a big hunk of Franciscan rocks riding north along the western side of the Hayward fault. Its easternment end tails off in a narrow wedge of undifferentiated rock, shown here in the geologic map.

35thjordancutmap

The next three photos are taken from the locations marked with numbers. That’s 35th Avenue there, right at the curve in the road where it becomes Redwood Road. The curve is where the fault crosses the road, too, so it’s an apt place for the change of name. Just below the bend is this roadcut in hard bedrock. It’s mapped mostly as the material labeled KJf, undifferentiated Franciscan, on the geologic map plus some of the volcanic rocks (Jsv) exposed in the Leona quarry.

35th-ave-cut

I don’t know how old the roadcut is. The road hasn’t changed course since the 1800s, but I guess it was widened in the 1960s or so, because the map base shows the split roadway in purple, meaning a recent change of the same vintage as I-580’s construction. Perhaps the road had a hump in it as it crossed the ridge. Above the bedrock ridge is a small valley with Jordan Road in it, shown below. The homes on Victor and Herrier Streets are visible on the Franciscan ridge beyond this swale (especially in the big version if you click on it).

jordanswale

A bit to the north, Peralta Creek runs into this swale (mapped as a sag basin related to the fault) and then cuts through the ridge in Rettig canyon. I can see the swale filling with water and emptying over the millennia, perhaps occasionally down Cortland Creek past the south tip of the Franciscan spike, as earthquakes and landslides rearranged the topography. The fault is mapped right at the intersection of Jordan and 35th on the west side, but I’ve never seen any evidence of creep there.

The roadcut, according to the geologic map, should expose two kinds of bedrock. It’s covered with boulders of basalt or greenstone, presumably quarried from the spot.

35th-ave-cutclose

Bits of bedrock peek through, so it ought to be possible to trace the contact between the two rock types. That’s on my list of projects.

Tuxedo terrace

12 May 2013

The Fan, my name for the lower hills in central Oakland, has a lot of subtle topography that I’m getting to know as I ramble over its contours. The little valleys are one feature I enjoy perceiving, but the places between them are interesting too. The San Antonio lobe of the Fan, between 14th Avenue and Fruitvale, has a flat top at about 200 feet elevation. This is in the Tuxedo neighborhood, looking down 21st Avenue toward the bay. 22nd and 23rd are the same way.

tuxedoterrace

There doesn’t seem to be a reason for such a flat stretch on an ordinary alluvial fan. Fans slope; that’s why they’re fans. I have to assume that the ground was not excavated flat but is naturally that way. Is it possible that this is a relict wave-cut platform, similar to the Clinton marine terrace but higher and older?

Arguing against that hypothesis, the height is problematic. On the other hand, the East Bay hills are rising and so may be the land west of the Hayward fault. It may be rising in fits and starts (meaning in episodes measured in thousands of years). The next thing I want, and have wanted for a long time, is a really accurate terrain map of Oakland. It would look like the standard digital elevation model of Oakland but would be compiled from lidar data and be accurate to a centimeter or so. Maybe my eyes are fooling me; after all the street does slope a little.

Crestmont hill

20 January 2013

The Crestmont neighborhood is centered around this hill, the one on the left. We’re looking north at it from King Estates Open Space. It’s the highest bit of land in Oakland west of the freeway.

crestmonthill

Crestmont hill stands just over 500 feet high, with Crest Avenue running along its crown. The hill is mapped as the same stone as in the old Leona Quarry, which you see on the right in the background: volcanic rocks of the uppermost part of the Coast Range ophiolite. I say “mapped as” because I haven’t seen a bit of bedrock on it. Perhaps building excavations uncovered it.

The ridge runs south, beneath my feet and beyond past Fontaine Street, where Crest Avenue picks up again. But everything south of Crestmont hill is mapped as sediment instead, an older unit of alluvial-fan roughage. The gravel I’ve seen on its upper surface looks like chert of the Claremont Shale. I guess I’m rambling. This area puzzles me. How much of its shape is due to warpage by the Hayward fault, which runs parallel to this ridge just west of the photo? How old is the alluvium, and what stream delivered it here? How much of the map is real and how much is extrapolation? It is likely that my questions are unanswerable.

Longridge loess

21 August 2012

I was walking up Longridge Road and spied an excavation, where a homeowner was replacing some water lines and renewing a driveway. Naturally, I sidled over and took the rare chance to look beneath the skin of Oakland’s Pleistocene fan. The material was massive—unbedded—and clean. I pried off this little piece . . .

longridge

. . . and nibbled on it. It was firm, but crumbled like Necco wafers and turned creamy on the tongue with just a hint of grit. Not sticky or chewy with clay. Not indurated like hardpan. No sand or pebbles to be seen. The more I thought about it, the more peculiar this sediment seemed, until I had a wild surmise.

Alluvial sediment is never very well sorted, because it’s carried short distances and laid down by streams. Longridge Road is, as the name suggests, a ridge road running up the crest of a ridge between parallel stream valleys along Trestle Glen and Mandana roads. The crest of a ridge should not be made of this fine silt. But it’s downwind from downtown, which is Pleistocene sand dunes (the Merritt Sand), cousin to the dunes of San Francisco. Dune sand is very fine sand, and the fraction that blows away from the sand is finer still. So my wild surmise is that the fan, at least this part of it, is dusted with a layer of windblown glacial silt—i.e., loess. It’s remarkable stuff, and something I never expected to see in Oakland.

The Holy Names hematite workings

29 November 2011

On the grounds of Holy Names College is a locality where the locals, before the Spanish moved in, would find and process the red mineral pigment of hematite.

hematite site

Today it’s the setting of a toddlers’ playground, without a sign of its former prestige. Nearby is Oakland historical landmark 51, the George McCrea House and Indian Campground. McCrea was the prominent architect who designed the house, and I find nothing online about the Indians. I don’t know if these boulders are part of the historical landmark, but they aren’t being treated like one.

I visited the site a couple weeks ago accompanied by a rockhound and a geologist. The boulders have numerous pits, much like the ubiquitous mortars where the natives once ground acorns.

hematite

The material making up the boulders appears to be ancient colluvium cemented by abundant iron oxides. This cementation would not happen at the land surface. They sit on a shoulder of land near a deep ravine of the Lion Creek drainage, evidently exposed by erosion.

The site is not far from the former sulfur mine in the hills above Laundry Canyon, and I was told that other ironstone boulders occur in the neighborhood.

Hematite is an excellent orange-red stain, useful for face paint and similar decoration. There isn’t much around here.

Secret streets

10 June 2011

You’d think that Oakland has erased all of its dirt roads, but one afternoon I found this one, running north after a hairpin turn past the end of Florence Avenue.

florence landvale

Florence ends near a power substation that’s labeled, if I recall it correctly, with the word “Landvale.” Naturally I thought of Landvale Road, the nearly-lost street that has been wiped out by Route 13. Is this the lost south end of Landvale? Or is it a leg of the old Oakland & Antioch Railroad bed that runs through Montclair? If my calf ever heals, I’m heading back here.

UPDATE: I visited the Cal Library’s historic topo maps site and found the road mapped as the railroad grade in 1947, before the Warren Freeway was put in, and shown as the “old railroad grade” in 1959. For now, I guess it’s a decidedly informal walking trail for the neighborhood—certainly a long walk to get there from anywhere else.


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