Archive for the ‘Oakland rocks’ Category

Twenty Oakland rock types in a 30-mile drive

2 October 2017

As far as I can tell, Oakland has more rock types within its boundaries than any other city in America. When I added them up for a talk I gave at East Bay Nerd Nite, I counted more than 25, from limestone to blueschist. This 30-mile road trip will take you to most of them, with the Hayward fault as a bonus. It starts above the UC Berkeley campus and runs south the length of the high hills, then goes back north through Montclair and Piedmont to end at Mountain View Cemetery.

That’s 1200 pixels wide if you click on it, but don’t worry, I’ll show it in pieces below for more detail. In fact, let’s go to part 1 right now. It goes from Grizzly Peak through Joaquin Miller Park on Grizzly Peak and Skyline Boulevards.

The numbered segments correspond to the formations on the geologic map, as follows:

  1. Moraga Formation (basalt, andesite, tuff)
  2. Orinda Formation (conglomerate)
  3. Claremont Shale (chert, shale, dolomite limestone)
  4. Sobrante Formation (mudstone, shale)
  5. Unnamed mudstone/sandstone
  6. Redwood Canyon Formation (sandstone, siltstone)
  7. Shephard Creek Formation (sandstone, mudstone, siltstone, shale)
  8. Oakland Conglomerate* (conglomerate, sandstone)
  9. Joaquin Miller Formation (sandstone, shale)

Then there’s part 2, from Joaquin Miller Park to the edge of Montclair on Skyline, Grass Valley Road, Golf Links Road, Keller Avenue, Campus Drive and Redwood Road.

  1. Serpentine (serpentinite, blueschist)
  2. Oakland Conglomerate* (conglomerate, sandstone)
  3. Knoxville Formation (conglomerate, shale)
  4. Leona volcanics (metatuff, metabasalt)

Part 3 takes the freeway to Montclair Village, where you won’t see any rocks, then goes down Moraga Road to Piedmont’s Dracena Park and over to Mountain View Cemetery, where rocks are abundant.

  1. No rocks to be seen, but do stop on Medau Place and spot the offset curbs where the Hayward fault crosses it
  2. Franciscan melange (argillite, metachert, greenstone)
  3. Franciscan sandstone (sandstone, siltstone)
  4. Franciscan melange

The cemetery’s melange has many bodies of hard rock (knockers) that stand above the ground. They have their own blog category. Search this site, or check the category list on the right, for posts I’ve written about these rock units.

*The cobbles embedded in the Oakland Conglomerate offer more rock types, including granite, quartzite, gneiss and schist. That’s how I get up to 20.

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Sibley sights: Lapilli tuff

18 September 2017

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve is the site of a small volcanic center that was last active about 10 million years ago. After it fizzled out, the whole thing was gradually buried in younger sediment. Within the last few million years, the action of the Hayward fault squeezed, folded and uplifted this sequence of rocks and tilted it almost to perpendicular. Then erosion of the uplifted hills — and quarrying by a Kaiser company — exposed a good cross section to view.

Stop number 10 on the self-guided geology tour is an out-of-the-way spot where a rare and striking example of lapilli tuff is exposed. Each time I pass by — three times so far — I can’t resist photographing it. There was May 2005:

There was June 2009:

And there was just last month.

I need to unpack the name “lapilli tuff.” Tuff is a rock type consisting of ash — volcanic material that’s been explosively erupted and then lithified. It’s formally called volcaniclastic material: pulverized rather than solid lava. Lapilli is the name for ash particles of the same size range as gravel, or 2 to 64 millimeters across.

These lapilli (a single particle is called a lapillus) are very consistent in size and texture. They suggest that a spray of red-hot lava was erupted from a volcanic vent nearby and fell together in a neat pile. Perhaps there were strong winds at the time that sorted the droplets by size. Whether the lapilli were still so hot that they fused together before they fully cooled — an agglutinate — or fused together later when cold — an agglomerate — is not clear to me.

Whatever the circumstances were, they were unusual enough that only wide-ranging geologists and professional volcanologists are likely to have seen more than one example of rock quite like this. It merits the specialized name lapillistone, because it appears to contain very little material other than lapilli.

Oddly, it seems I never photographed the same rock twice during my visits to this spot, although it’s possible the rocks eroded beyond recognition over that 12-year span. Will have to keep coming back.

Oakland building stones: Serpentinite

26 June 2017

In a modest West Oakland neighborhood on Market Street is the modest West Grand Shopping Center. Its ordinary building is clad in rough stone, an exterior treatment similar to the Kaiser Building and many other examples.

But at the West Grand Shopping Center, the cladding consists of fist-sized pieces of beautiful serpentine rock.

The front side of the building is pristine. The rear side, on Myrtle Street, is a full block long and completely faced with serpentinite. Unfortunately the bottom seven feet or so has been painted over.

The mutable color of this stone, blue-green in the shade and olive-green in the sun, gives the building a real Oakland look. I don’t know where the stone came from. Our own serpentinite is usually bluish and not of this quality, except maybe in small outcrops in the Franciscan melange. Perhaps it’s from a quarry in the Mother Lode country. It must have taken a few carloads of rock and a crew of skilled artisans to put this together.

A few months back, when I was presenting the building stone verd antique, serpentinite’s dressed-up cousin, I said “You can’t do much with California serpentine except admire it.” Makes me happy to be proved partly wrong — you can always admire it, and sometimes build with it.

The Hayward fault at Warm Springs

17 April 2017

Every extension of BART opens up a new region accessible to geologizers using public transit. So the other week I paid a visit to the far end of the Hayward fault, less than a mile from the new Warm Springs station in south Fremont. The station has nice views of the San Mateo Peninsula mountains to the west and Mission Peak to the east.

It appears, too, that the Irvington Gravels site to the north is accessible for determined walkers who bring provisions — that is, hikers.

To get to the fault just walk east on South Grimmer Boulevard toward the place marked “Weibel” on Google Maps.

Here’s the same area in Jim Lienkaemper’s detailed 1992 map of the fault. The map has a key to all the annotations. Note that both images are tilted to make the fault vertical; north is at about 1:30.

The fault runs through the “D” in “Blvd.”

Look back at the Google Maps image. See the line of green along the fault trace? That’s because of the 1972 Alquist-Priolo Act, which forbids new construction within 50 feet of an active fault. The area in the middle must have been built up before the act took effect. That’s where I went.

South Grimmer reveals the offset from fault creep well. This view is looking east toward Mission Peak. On the fault map, the locality (just below the horizontal dashed line) is circled and labeled “C1,rc,rf” signifying “strongly pronounced” evidence of creep in the form of right-offset curbs and a right-offset fence line.

And this is the other side of the road, looking west. Notice that the sidewalk is offset as well as the curb.

There’s another, much smaller offset higher up the slope that I didn’t get a good picture of. Repeated measurements show that together these offsets add up to about 6 millimeters per year. The slope itself is a sign of the fault, too.

To the north across little Arroyo Agua Caliente Park on Gardenia Way, this nice set of echelon cracks marks the fault trace. That’s what the “ec” in the circle labeled “C1,ec,rc,cc” stands for.

The fault nips the corner of Gardenia and Ivy Way, bending this curb (the “rc” in the label).

The city or the homeowner copes with the sidewalk by patching it as needed. You’ll see stuff like this everywhere on the Hayward fault.

Walking north through the park to Parkmeadow Drive on its north edge, you can look west down the street and see both an offset curb and the change in slope that marks the fault.

You can do this yourself all along the fault. The map has all the evidence (and the USGS has an updated version as of 2008).

A week later I hosted two French journalists — a writer and a photographer — for an afternoon, showing them fault offset features like these up in Hayward and Oakland. The writer went and spoke to a resident whose home was on the fault, and his fatalistic response took her aback a bit. She said “we don’t have attitudes like this in France.” I told her we Californians have been this way since the Gold Rush.