Microfossiliferous marine sediments of the Imperial Formation exposed in the Whitewater and Cabazon areas, near San Gorgonio Pass, southern California, are late Miocene in age and were deposited at intertidal to outer neritic depths, and possibly upper bathyal depths. A late Miocene age of 7.4 to >6.04 Ma is based on the ranges of age-diagnostic benthic foraminifers (Cassidulina delicata and Uvigerina peregrina), planktic foraminifers (Globigerinoides obliquus, G. extremus, and Globigerina nepenthes; zones N17-N19), and calcareous nannoplankton (Discoaster brouweri, D. aff. D. surculus, Reticulofenestra pseudoumbilicata, Sphenolithus abies, and S. neoabies; zones CN9a-CN11) coupled with published K/Ar dates from the underlying Coachella Formation (10.1 ?? 1.2 Ma; Peterson, 1975) and overlying Painted Hill Formation (6.04 ?? 0.18 and 5.94 ?? 0.18 Ma; J. L. Morton in Matti and others, 1985 and Matti and Morton, 1993). Paleoecologic considerations (sea-level fluctuations and paleotemperature) restrict the age of the Imperial Formation to 6.5 through 6.3 Ma. Benthic foraminiferal assemblages indicate that the Imperial Formation in the Whitewater and Cabazon sections accumulated at inner neritic to outer neritic (0-152 m) and possibly upper bathyal (152-244 m) depths. Shallowing to inner neritic depths occurred as the upper part of the section was deposited. This sea-level fluctuation corresponds to a global highstand at 6.3 Ma (Haq and others, 1987). Planktic foraminifers suggest an increase in surface-water temperatures upsection. A similar increase in paleotemperatures is interpreted for the North Pacific from 6.5 to 6.3 Ma (warm interval W10 of Barron and Keller, 1983). Environmental contrasts between the Whitewater and Cabazon sections of the Imperial Formation provide evidence for right-lateral displacements on the Banning fault, a late Miocene strand of the San Andreas fault system. The Cabazon section lies south of the Banning fault, and has been displaced west relative to the Whitewater sections. The Cabazon section was deposited at greater depths, suggesting that it accumulated farther offshore than the Whitewater section. If the Salton Trough was a southward-opening, elongated northwest-southeast basin similar to the modern Gulf of California, the Cabazon sequence probably has been displaced right-laterally from a position farther southeast of the Whitewater sequence. This relation requires late Miocene displacements greater than the present 12 km cross-fault separation between the two Imperial sections in the San Gorgonio Pass area.
Additional publication details
Age and paleoenvironment of the imperial formation near San Gorgonio Pass, Southern California