The study area, which includes about 5,000 square miles of the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley, is a broad structural trough of mostly interior drainage. The Sierra Nevada on the east is composed of consolidated igneous and metamorphic rocks of pre-Tertiary age. The surface of these rocks slopes 4?-6? southwestward from the foothills and underlies the valley. The Coast Ranges on the west consist mostly of complexly folded and faulted consolidated marine and nonmarine sedimentary rocks of Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary age, which dip eastward and overlie the basement complex. Unconsolidated deposits, of late Pliocene to Holocene age, blanket the underlying consolidated rocks in the valley and are the source of most of the fresh ground water. The unconsolidated deposits, the subject of this report, are divided into informal stratigraphic units on the basis of source of sediment, environment of deposition, and texture.
Flood-basin, lacustrine, and marsh deposits are fine grained and underlie the valley trough. They range in age from late Pliocene to Holocene. These deposits, consisting of nearly impermeable gypsiferous fine sand, silt, and clay, are more than 3,000 feet thick beneath parts of Tulare Lake bed. In other parts of the trough, flood-basin, lacustrine, and marsh deposits branch into clayey or silty clay tongues designated by the letter symbols A to F. Three of these tongues, the E, C, and A clays, lie beneath large areas of the southern part of the valley.
The E clay includes the Corcoran Clay Member of the Tulare Formation, the most extensive hydrologic confining layer in the valley. The E clay underlies about 3,500 square miles of bottom land and western slopes. The beds generally are dark-greenish-gray mostly diatomaceous silty clay of Pleistocene age. Marginally, the unit bifurcates into an upper and a lower stratum that contains thin beds of moderately yellowish-brown silt and sand. The E clay is warped into broad, gentle northwesterly trending anticlines and synclines.
The C clay, of Pleistocene age, is a fine-grained lacustrine or paludal deposit occurring 220-300 feet beneath Tulare Lake bed and parts of Fresno Slough. The beds consist of bluish-gray silty clay. Structural contours indicate that the C clay has been extensively warped and folded.
The A clay of Pleistocene and Holocene (?) age is a fine-grained lacustrine or paludal deposit occurring 10-60 feet beneath Buena Vista, Kern, and Tulare Lake beds, and parts of Fresno Slough. The clay is mainly blue or dark greenish gray, plastic, and highly organic. In some areas the unit is separated into an upper and a lower stratum by several feet of sand. A radiocarbon date of 26,780 ? 600 years was obtained from wood cored 3 feet beneath the clay.
Continental deposits are arkosic beds of late Pliocene and Pleistocene (?) age and were derived from the Sierra Nevada, Tehachapi, and San Emigdio Mountains. In places, a reduced-oxidized contact transgresses the deposits derived from the Sierra Nevada. The reduced deposits consist of moderately permeable bluish-green or bluish-gray fine to medium sand, silt, and clay. The oxidized deposits consist mainly of poorly permeable yellowish-brown silt and fine sand. Deposits derived from the Tehachapi and the San Emigdio Mountains consist of poorly to moderately permeable yellowish-brown sand and silt. Continental and alluvial deposits of Tertiary and Quaternary age that were derived from the Coast Ranges consist mainly of poorly to moderately permeable yellowish-brown gravel, sand, silt, and clay. They include the Tulare Formation and overlying alluvial deposits.
Alluvium is composed of coarse arkosic deposits derived from the Sierra Nevada, Tehachapi, and San Emigdio Mountains. A reduced-oxidized contact also transgresses the alluvial deposits derived from the Sierra Nevada. The oxidized deposits consist of poorly to highly permeable yellowish-brown gravel, sand, silt, and clay. The reduc
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Subsurface geology of the late Tertiary and Quaternary water-bearing deposits of the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley, California
Water Supply Paper
U.S. Govt. Print. Off.,
iv, 29 p. :illus. and portfolio (6 plates) ;24 cm.