Offshore Shallow Structure and Sediment Distribution, Punta Gorda to Point Arena, Northern California

Open-File Report 2019-1072
By:  and 


  • Documents:
  • Related Works:
    • Data Series 781 - California State Waters Map Series Data Catalog
    • Open-File Report 2018-1158 - Offshore Shallow Structure and Sediment Distribution, Point Sur to Point Arguello, Central California, by Sam Y. Johnson and others.
    • Open-File Report 2015-1098 - California State Waters Map Series—Offshore of Salt Point, California, by Sam Y. Johnson and others.
  • Dataset: Dataset The GIS data layers for this map are accessible from “Offshore Shallow Structure and Sediment Distribution, Point Sur to Point Arguello, Central California” which is part of California State Waters Map Series Data Catalog. Each GIS data file is listed with a brief description, a small image, and links to the metadata files and the downloadable data files.
  • Data Release: USGS data release
  • Metadata:
  • Download citation as: RIS | Dublin Core


This publication consists of two map sheets that display shallow geologic structure, along with sediment distribution and thickness, for an approximately 150-km-long offshore section of the northern California coast between Punta Gorda and Point Arena. Each map sheet includes three maps at scales of either 1:100,000 or 1:200,000, and together the sheets include 30 figures that contain representative high-resolution seismic-reflection profiles. The maps and seismic-reflection surveys cover most of the continental shelf in this region. In addition, the maps show the locations of the shelf break and the 3-nautical-mile limit of California’s State Waters.

The seismic-reflection data, which are the primary dataset used to develop the maps, were collected to support the California Seafloor Mapping Program, U.S. Geological Survey Offshore Geologic Hazards projects, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Ocean Explorer program. In addition to the two map sheets, this publication includes geographic information system data files of faults, sediment thicknesses, and depths-to-base of sediment

The map area includes the northernmost section of the right-lateral San Andreas Fault, which extends offshore from Point Arena in the south to Point Delgada in the north. The San Andreas Fault is the primary structure in the widely distributed plate boundary between the Pacific Plate and the Sierra Nevada–Great Valley Microplate, with estimates of cumulative right slip of as much as up to 450 km. South of Point Delgada, fault-related transtension has resulted in development of the Noyo Basin. North of Point Delgada, the San Andreas Fault transitions into a complex contractional zone in and (or) south of the King Range, including a possible nearshore fault that may connect with the Mattole Canyon Fault.

Quaternary sediments and bedrock underlie the shelf. On the seismic-reflection profiles, we digitally traced the thickness and depth of the uppermost seismic-stratigraphic unit, which is a focus of this publication. The upper contact of this unit is the seafloor; the lower contact is a transgressive surface of erosion, a commonly angular, wave-cut unconformity characterized by an upward change to lower amplitude, more diffuse reflections. On the basis of this lower contact, this stratigraphic unit is inferred to have been deposited on the shelf in the last about 21,000 years during the sea-level rise that followed the last major lowstand and the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Maps in this publication show both the thickness of this upper sediment unit and the depth to the base of the sediment unit. Within the map region, five different “domains” of post-LGM shelf sediment are delineated on the basis of sediment thickness and coastal geomorphology. Maximum sediment thickness (as much as 67 m) is found in the northern part of the region, along the steep south flank of the King Range. Minimum sediment thickness (areas of exposed bedrock) is found on fault-bounded uplifts, which include Tolo bank and Punta Gorda bank. Mean sediment thickness for the entire shelf in the map area between Punta Gorda and Point Arena is 8.9 m, and total sediment volume is 12,824×106 m3.

Suggested Citation

Beeson, J.W., and Johnson, S.Y., 2019, Offshore shallow structure and sediment distribution, Punta Gorda to Point Arena, northern California: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2019–1072, 2 sheets, scales 1:100,000 and 1:200,000,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Offshore shallow structure and sediment distribution, Punta Gorda to Point Arena, Northern California
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2019-1072
DOI 10.3133/ofr20191072
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 2 Sheets: 65 x 37 inches and 85 x 38 inches; Metadata; Data Release
Country United States
State California
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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