The Simmler and Vaqueros Formations in the Caliente Range-Carrizo Plain area make up a large part of the thick Tertiary sedimentary sequence that was .deposited in a basin which lay along the southwest side of the present-day San Andreas fault. The evolution of this basin during Oligocene and early Miocene time and the relationship of its sedimentary record to the tectonic history is an important chapter in the Tertiary history of California.
The Simmler Formation, of provincial Oligocene to early Miocene age, unconformably overlies basement rocks and an Upper Cretaceous-lower Tertiary marine sequence. It consists of a sandstone facies, which is mostly a variegated sequence of sandstone and mudstone occurring in fining-upward cycles, and a conglomerate facies, which occurs around the southwest and southeast margins of the basin.
The conformably overlying Vaqueros Formation, of provincial early to middle Miocene age, is subdivided from base upward ,into the Quail Canyon Sandstone, Soda Lake Shale, and Painted Rock Sandstone Members. The Vaqueros intertongues eastward, southeastward, and northward with the continental Caliente Formation and is conformably overlain by the Monterey Shale. In the Caliente Range, northeast of major thrust faults, the Vaqueros may reach a thickness of 8,700 feet (2,650 m). Around the margin of the basin, the formation is much thinner--locally only 200 feet (60 m) thick--and is generally undivided. The Quail Canyon Sandstone Member is composed of cross-bedded or planar-stratified sandstone. The Soda Lake Shale Member consists mostly of siltstone and platy shale with a few thin sandstone interbeds. The Painted Rock Sandstone Member, the thickest and coarsest member, consists mostly of large lenticular bodies of thick-bedded coarse-grained sandstone and thinner units of siltstone. Petrology and paleocurrent studies indicate that, in a given subarea, the Simmler and Vaqueros Formations were derived from the same source terrane and that the sediments were usually transported in the same general direction. Crystalline basement terranes to the north and south were the primary sources, but the Upper Cretaceous-lower Tertiary marine sequence made substantial contributions along the southwest side of the basin.
The sandstone facies of the Simmler Formation is interpreted as an alluvial plain depositional complex formed by through-flowing low-sinuosity streams, and the conglomerate facies is interpreted as alluvial fan deposits. The Vaqueros Formation in the Caliente Range forms a transgressive-regressive sequence. The Quail Canyon Sandstone and lowermost Soda Lake Shale Members represent the transgressive phase, are interpreted as beach-nearshore and offshore deposits, and are locally the marine
equivalents of the upper part of the Simmler conglomerate facies. The remainder of the Soda Lake Shale Member and the Painted Rock Sandstone Member represent the regressive phase and are interpreted as a complex of deltaic and shelf-slope deposits that prograded over basinal shales and turbidites.
The reconstructed basin history began in the Oligocene with alluvial plain sedimentation in an area of relatively low relief. This was interrupted in the early Miocene (ca. 25 m.y. B.P.) by the beginning of a period of crustal extension, probably related to the first interaction of the Pacific and North American plates, resulting in the formation of a rapidly subsiding marine basin. This crustal extension was followed by a period of north-south compression in the Pliocene and Pleistocene, which caused the thick accumulation of sediments in the basin to be folded and thrust over the thinner basin-margin section. The Red Hills-Chimineas-Russell fault trend, along which Cretaceous granitic and Precambrian(?) gneissic rocks had been juxtaposed in Cretaceous time, was reactivated in the Pliocene, when 8 to 9 miles (13-14.5 km) of additional right-lateral slip occurred, The pattern of north-south thrusting and rig
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Sedimentology of the Simmler and Vaqueros formations in the Caliente Range-Carrizo Plain area, California