Geology, Minerals, Energy, & Geophysics Science Center

U.S. Geological Survey
Open-File Report 95–96
Version 1.11

The Surface of Crystalline Basement, Great Valley and Sierra Nevada, California: A Digital Map Database

By Carl M. Wentworth, G. Reid Fisher, Paia Levine, and Robert C. Jachens

1995, revised 2012

Summary map of basement surface contours, wells, and seismic lines, central California


Crystalline basement in central California extends westward from the exposed Sierra Nevada beneath the sedimentary fill of the Great Valley and under the eastern edge of the Coast Ranges at mid-crustal depth. The surface of this basement is defined from three types of control: in the Sierra Nevada from the topography itself, beneath the eastern two thirds of the Great Valley in considerable detail from numerous wells drilled for oil and gas, and beneath the western San Joaquin Valley in less detail from seismic reflection and refraction profiles. Together, these data demonstrate that the surface of crystalline rock is continuous from the exposed rock in the mountains to the top of high-velocity rock buried deep beneath the eastern front of the southern Coast Ranges.

This report presents a compilation of data through 1985 that define the surface of this crystalline basement, a contour map of the surface, and the lithology of the basement rock sampled by many of the wells. The compilation was begun as part of the investigation of the 1983 Coalinga earthquake, and was subsequently converted to digital form and extended to the whole of the Great Valley and Sierra Nevada. The main purpose was to explore and document the shape and continuity of the basement surface and to determine the relation of the surface to the tectonic wedge hypothesis (Wentworth and others, 1984; Wentworth and Zoback, 1989). Available basement samples from wells—principally the thin-section collection of May and Hewitt (1948) preserved by the California Academy of Sciences—were also reexamined by cooperating petrologists in an effort to distinguish wells that bottomed in ophiolitic rocks.


View the text of this report: of95-96_text.pdf (291 kB).

View a large version of the map (figure 1): ccb_fig1.jpg (854 kB).

View the database explanation pamphlet as an unformatted, text-only file: readme.txt (48 kB).


Processing of the compressed tar file ( will yield a suite of files, including Arc export files, shape files, text files, and a page-sized map, involving several file formats

Download the digital database package (; 1.5 MB compressed, 5.3 MB when opened).

For questions about the content of this report, contact Carl Wentworth

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