Geologic map of the Palo Alto and part of the Redwood Point 7-1/2' quadrangles, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, California

IMAP 2371



The Palo Alto and southern part of the Redwood Point 7-1/2' quadrangles cover an area on the San Francisco peninsula between San Francisco Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains. San Francisquito and Los Trancos Creeks, in the southeastern part of the map area, form the boundary between San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. The area covered by the geologic map extends from tidal and marsh lands at the edge of the bay southward across a gently sloping alluvial plain to the foothills of the northern Santa Cruz Mountains. The foothills are separated from the main mass of the mountains by two northwest-striking faults, the San Andreas and Pilarcitos, that cross the southwest corner of the map area (fig. 1). The map and adjoining areas are here divided into three structural blocks juxtaposed along these faults, adopting the scheme of Nilsen and Brabb (1979): (1) the San Francisco Bay block lying east of the San Andreas Fault Zone; (2) the Pilarcitos block lying between the San Andreas and Pilarcitos Faults; and (3) the La Honda block that includes the main mass of the Santa Cruz Mountains lying west of the Pilarcitos Fault. The west boundary of the La Honda block is the Seal Cove-San Gregorio Fault.

Pre-late Pleistocene Cenozoic rocks of the foothills have been compressed into northwest-striking folds, which have been overridden by Mesozoic rocks along southwest-dipping low-angle faults. Coarse- to fine-grained upper Pleistocene and Holocene alluvial and estuarine deposits, eroded from the foothills and composing the alluvial plain, are essentially undeformed. Most of the alluvial plain, including some parts of the marsh land that borders the bay, has been covered by residential and commercial developments, and virtually all of the remaining marsh land has been diked off and used as salt evaporating ponds. The map area includes parts of the municipalities of San Carlos, Redwood City, Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto in San Mateo County; and Palo Alto, Stanford University, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills in Santa Clara County (fig. 2). Much of the university land remains as undeveloped open space surrounded by densely urbanized lands.

Geologic maps of all or part of the present map area have been prepared previously by Branner and others (1909), Thomas (1949), Dobbs and Forbes (1960), Dibblee (1966), Page and Tabor (1967), Pampeyan (1970a, 1970b), Beaulieu (1970), Helley and others (1979), and by numerous Stanford University students working on topical earth science problems. In addition, numerous engineering geologic studies have been conducted for site investigations relating to residential and commercial developments and, in particular, for construction of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). The reports pertaining to SLAC are summarized in Skjei and others (1965) and more recently in a report by Earth Sciences Associates (1983). The interested reader is referred to Brabb and Pampeyan (1983), Brabb and others (1982), Wentworth and others (1985), Wieczorek and others (1985), Thomson and Evernden (1986), Brabb and Olson (1986), Youd and Perkins (1987), Perkins (1987), and Mark and Newman (1988) for information pertaining to geology, history, slope stability, seismic shaking, liquifaction potential, and faulting and seismicity in San Mateo County, some of which can be applied directly to northern Santa Clara County. 

Field work for the present geologic map was done in 1962-1964 and 1966 when SLAC and Interstate 280 were in early stages of construction. Only minor additions and revisions have been made since this mapping was first released (Pampeyan, 1970a; 1970b) as it was impractical to keep pace with accelerating urban development of the area. Geologic units of the flatlands area are largely adapted from Helley and Lajoie (1979).

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geologic map of the Palo Alto and part of the Redwood Point 7-1/2' quadrangles, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, California
Series title IMAP
Series number 2371
DOI 10.3133/i2371
Year Published 1993
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Description Report: 26 p.; 1 Plate: 37.00 x 39.71 inches
Country United States
State California
County San Mateo County, Santa Clara County
Datum National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929
Scale 24000
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details