Magnesium-rich clayey gouge similar to that comprising the two actively creeping strands of the San Andreas Fault in drill core from the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) has been identified in a nearby outcrop of serpentinite within the fault zone at Nelson Creek. Each occurrence of the gouge consists of porphyroclasts of serpentinite and sedimentary rocks dispersed in a fine-grained, foliated matrix of Mg-rich smectitic clays. The clay minerals in all three gouges are interpreted to be the product of fluid-assisted, shear-enhanced reactions between quartzofeldspathic wall rocks and serpentinite that was tectonically entrained in the fault from a source in the Coast Range Ophiolite. We infer that the gouge at Nelson Creek connects to one or both of the gouge zones in the SAFOD core, and that similar gouge may occur at depths in between. The special significance of the outcrop is that it preserves the early stages of mineral reactions that are greatly advanced at depth, and it confirms the involvement of serpentinite and the Mg-rich phyllosilicate minerals that replace it in promoting creep along the central San Andreas Fault.
Additional publication details
Correlation of clayey gouge in a surface exposure of the San Andreas fault with gouge at depth from SAFOD: Implications for the role of serpentinite in fault mechanics