The southernmost Sierra Nevaaa widely exposes hornblende-rich, gneissic to granoblastic, amphibolite- to granulite-grade, metamorphic rocks and associated magmatic rocks, all of mid-Cretaceous age. Locally, red garnet, in part in euhedral crystals as large as 10 cm, as well as strongly pleochroic hyperstnene, characterize these rocks. These hornblende-rich rocks dominate the north slopes of the southern tail of the Sierra Nevada, but are also present as inclusion masses of various sizes in the dominantly granitic terrane to She northeast.
The mafic, hornblende-rich rocks reflect a deeper crustal level than the dominantly granitic terrane to the northeast based on: 1) 'index' minerals (presence of hypersthene, coarse garnet, and brown hornblende; 2) textures (considerable ambivalence of whether individual samples are metamorphic or magmatic, 3) metamorphic grade (at least local granulite facies); and 4) the presence of migmatite, and the eviaence of local melting and mobilization. These rocks may be exposures of the upper part of the root zone and metamorphic substrate of the Sierra Nevada batholith. Xenoliths of gneiss, amphibolite, and granulite from sub-batholithic levels, that have been transported upward and preserved in volcanic rocks in the central Sierra Nevada, are similar to some exposed rocks of the southernmost Sierra Nevada.
Hypersthene-bearing granulite and tonalite, as well as distinctive granofels of mid-Cretaceous age, are exposed in the western part of the Santa Lucia Range (some 300 km to the northwest across the San Andreas fault). These rocks have much in common with some of the metamorphic and magmatic rocks in the southernmost Sierra Nevada, suggesting that the two areas record similar metamorphic conditions and crustal depth. Mid-Cretaceous hypersthene granulite is rare, which makes correlation of the Santa Lucia Range and the southernmost Sierra Nevada seem attractive. Nevertheless, possibly significant petrographic anm rock distribution differences between the two areas (particularly the relative abundances of carbonate rocks and amphibolite) dictate caution in suggesting the two terranes were once contiguous.
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USGS Numbered Series
Hornblende-rich, high grade metamorphic terranes in the southernmost Sierra Nevada, California, and implications for crustal depths and batholith roots