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U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1759

Post-Miocene Right Separation on the San Gabriel and Vasquez Creek Faults, with Supporting Chronostratigraphy, Western San Gabriel Mountains, California

By Larry A. Beyer, Thane H. McCulloh, Rodger E. Denison, Ronald W. Morin, Roy J. Enrico, John A. Barron, and Robert J. Fleck



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The right lateral San Gabriel Fault Zone in southern California extends from the northwestern corner of the Ridge Basin southeastward to the eastern end of the San Gabriel Mountains. It bifurcates to the southeast in the northwestern San Gabriel Mountains. The northern and older branch curves eastward in the range interior. The southern younger branch, the Vasquez Creek Fault, curves southeastward to merge with the Sierra Madre Fault Zone, which separates the San Gabriel Mountains from the northern Los Angeles Basin margin. An isolated exposure of partly macrofossiliferous nearshore shallow-marine sandstone, designated the Gold Canyon beds, is part of the southwest wall of the fault zone 5.5 km northwest of the bifurcation. These beds contain multiple subordinate breccia-conglomerate lenses and are overlain unconformably by folded Pliocene-Pleistocene Saugus Formation fanglomerate. The San Gabriel Fault Zone cuts both units.

Marine macrofossils from the Gold Canyon beds give an age of 5.2±0.3 Ma by 87Sr/86Sr analyses. Magnetic polarity stratigraphy dates deposition of the overlying Saugus Formation to between 2.6 Ma and 0.78 Ma. Distinctive metaplutonic rocks of the Mount Lowe intrusive suite in the San Gabriel Range are the source of certain clasts in both the Gold Canyon beds and Saugus Formation. Angular clasts of nondurable Paleocene sandstone also occur in the Gold Canyon beds. The large size and angularity of some of the largest of both clast types in breccia-conglomerate lenses of the beds suggest landslides or debris flows from steep terrain. Sources of Mount Lowe clasts, originally to the north or northeast, are now displaced southeastward by faulting and are located between the San Gabriel and Vasquez Creek faults, indicating as much as 12±2 km of post-Miocene Vasquez Creek Fault right separation, in accord with some prior estimates. Post-Miocene right slip thus transferred onto the Vasquez Creek Fault southeast of the bifurcation. The right separation on the Vasquez Creek Fault adds to the generally accepted 22–23 km of middle-late Miocene right separation established for the San Gabriel Fault east of the bifurcation, resulting in total right separation of 34–35 km northwest of the bifurcation.

Clast sizes and lithologies in Saugus Formation deformed alluvial fan deposits in the Gold and Little Tujunga Canyons area indicate that alluvial stream flow was from the north or north-northeast. The alluvial fan complex is beheaded at the San Gabriel Fault Zone, and no correlative deposits have been found north of the fault zone. Likely sources of several distinctive clast types are east of the bifurcation and north of the Vasquez Creek Fault. Combining these data with right slip caused by the 34°±6° of clockwise local block rotation suggests that post-Saugus Formation (<2.6 to 0.78 Ma) right separation along the fault zone is 4±2 km.

The fossils, lithology, and age of the Gold Canyon beds correlate with the basal Pico Formation. The beds presumably connected southward or southwestward to a more open marine setting. A search for correlative strata to the south and southwest found that some strata previously mapped as Towsley Formation correlate with the Modelo Formation. Oyster spat in some Modelo Formation beds are the first recorded fossil occurrences and are especially remarkable because of associations with Miocene bathyal benthic foraminifers, planktonic calcareous nannofossils, and diatoms. Topanga Group basalt resting on basement rocks between Little and Big Tujunga Canyons gives an age of 16.14±0.05 Ma from 40Ar/39Ar analysis. Improved understanding of the upper Miocene stratigraphy indicates large early movement on the eastern Santa Susana Fault at about 7–6 Ma.

Version 1.0

Posted March 6, 2009

For additional information contact:
Larry Beyer

Western Earth Surface Processes Team

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USGS Information Services, Box 25286,
Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225
telephone: 888 ASK-USGS; e-mail:

ISBN: 978-1-4113-2330-8

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Suggested citation:

Beyer, L.A., McCulloh, T.H., Denison, R.E., Morin, R.W., Enrico, R.J., Barron, J.A., and Fleck, R.J., 2009, Post-Miocene right separation on the San Gabriel and Vasquez Creek Faults, with supporting chronostratigraphy, western San Gabriel Mountains, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1759, 44 p. [].



Geologic Setting

Pre-Neogene Rocks

Neogene Stratigraphy and Chronostratigraphic Findings

Gold Canyon Beds

Right Separation on the Vasquez Creek Fault




Appendixes 1–6

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