Geology and geomorphology--Offshore of Tomales Point Map Area, California

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Geology and geomorphology--Offshore of Tomales Point Map Area, California
This part of DS 781 presents data for the geologic and geomorphic map of the Offshore of Tomales Point map area, California. The vector data file is included in "," which is accessible from
The morphology and the geology of the offshore part of the Offshore of Tomales Point map area result from the interplay between tectonics, sea-level rise, local sedimentary processes, and oceanography. The map area is cut by the northwest-trending San Andreas Fault, the right-lateral transform boundary between the North American and Pacific tectonic plates. The San Andreas strikes through Tomales Bay, the northern part of a linear valley that extends from Bolinas through Olema Valley to Bodega Bay, separating mainland California from the Point Reyes Peninsula. Onshore investigations indicate that this section of the San Andreas Fault has an estimated slip rate of about 17 to 25 mm/yr (Bryant and Lundberg, 2002; Grove and Niemi, 2005). The devastating Great 1906 California earthquake (M 7.8) is thought to have nucleated on the San Andreas Fault about 50 kilometers south of this map area offshore of San Francisco (e.g., Bolt, 1968; Lomax, 2005), with the rupture extending northward through the Offshore of Tomales Point map area to the south flank of Cape Mendocino (Lawson, 1908; Brown and Wolfe, 1972).
The Point Reyes Peninsula is bounded to the south and west in the offshore by the north- and east-dipping Point Reyes Thrust Fault (McCulloch, 1987; Heck and others, 1990), which lies about 20 km west of Tomales Point. Granitic basement rocks are offset about 1.4 km on this thrust fault offshore of Point Reyes (McCulloch, 1987), and this uplift combined with west-side-up offset on the San Andreas Fault (Grove and Niemi, 2005) resulted in uplift of the Point Reyes Peninsula, including Tomales Point and the adjacent continental shelf. Grove and others (2010) reported uplift rates of as much as 1 mm/yr for the south flank of the Point Reyes Peninsula based on marine terraces, but reported no datable terrace surfaces that could constrain uplift for the flight of 4-5 terraces exposed farther north along Tomales Point.
Because of this Quaternary uplift and relative lack of sediment supply from coastal watersheds, there is extensive rugged, rocky seafloor beneath the continental shelf in the Offshore of Tomales Point map area. Granitic rocks (unit Kg) on the seafloor are mapped on the basis of massive character, roughness, extensive fractures, and high backscatter (see Backscattter A to D--Offshore of Tomales Point, California, DS 781, for more information). Neogene sedimentary rocks (units Tl and Tu) commonly form distinctive "ribs," created by differential seafloor erosion of dipping beds of variable resistance. The more massive offshore outcrops of unit Tu in the southern part of the map area are inferred to represent more uniform lithologies. Slopes on the granitic seafloor (generally 1 to 1.3 degrees) are greater than those over sedimentary rock (generally about 0.5 to 0.6 degrees).
Sediment-covered areas occur in gently sloping (less than about 0.6 degrees) mid-shelf environments west and north of Tomales Point, and at the mouth of Tomales Bay. Sediment supply is local, limited to erosion from local coastal bluffs and dunes, small coastal watersheds, and sediment flux out of the mouth of Tomales Bay. Shelf morphology and evolution largely reflects eustacy; sea level has risen about 125 to 130 m over about the last 21,000 years (for example, Lambeck and Chappell, 2001; Peltier and Fairbanks, 2005), leading to broadening of the continental shelf, progressive eastward migration of the shoreline and wave-cut platform, and associated transgressive erosion and deposition.
Given present exposure to high wave energy, modern nearshore to mid-shelf sediments are mostly sand (unit Qms) and a mix of sand, gravel, and cobbles (units Qmsc and Qmsd). These sediments are distributed between rocky outcrops at water depths of as much as 65 m (see below). The more coarse-grained sands and gravels (units Qmsc and Qmsd) are primarily recognized on the basis of bathymetry and high backscatter. Unit Qmsd forms erosional lags in scoured depressions that are bounded by relatively sharp contacts with bedrock or sharp to diffuse contacts with units Qms and Qmsc. These scoured depressions are typically a few tens of centimeters deep and range in size from a few 10's of sq m to more than one sq km.
Similar unit Qmsd scour depressions are common along this stretch of the California coast (see, for example, Cacchione and others, 1984; Hallenbeck and others, 2012) where surficial offshore sandy sediment is relatively thin (thus unable to fill the depressions) due to both lack of sediment supply and to erosion and transport of sediment during large northwest winter swells. Such features have been referred to as rippled-scour depressions (see, for example, Cacchione and others, 1984) or sorted bedforms (see, for example, Goff and others, 2005; Trembanis and Hume, 2011). Although the general areas in which both unit Qmsd scour depressions and surrounding mobile sand sheets occur are not likely to change substantially, the boundaries of the individual Qmsd depressions are likely ephemeral, changing seasonally and during significant storm events.
Unit Qmsf consists primarily of mud and muddy sand and is commonly extensively bioturbated. The location of the inboard contact at water depths of about 65 m is based on meager sediment sampling and photographic data and the inference that if must lie offshore of the outer boundary of coarse-grained units Qmsd and Qmsc. This is notably deeper than the inner contact of unit Qmsf offshore of the nearby Russian River (about 50 m; Klise, 1983) which could may reflect both increased wave energy and significantly decreased supply of muddy sediment.
There are two areas of high-backscatter, rough seafloor at water depths of 65 to 70 m west of northern Tomales Point. These areas are notable in that each includes several small (less than about 20,000 sq m), randomly distributed to northwest-trending, irregular "mounds," with as much as 1 m of positive relief above the seafloor (unit Qsr). Seismic-reflection data (see field activity S-15-10-NC) reveal this lumpy material rests on several meters of latest Pleistoce to Holocene sediment and is thus not bedrock outcrop. Rather, it seems likely that this material is marine debris, possibly derived from one (or more) of the more than 60 shipwrecks that have occurred offshore of the Point Reyes Peninsula between 1849 and 1940 (National Park Service, 2012). It is also conceivable that this lumpy terrane consists of biological "hardgrounds"
Units Qsw, Qstb, Qdtb, and Qsdtb comprise sediments in Tomales Bay. Anima and others (2008) conducted a high-resolution bathymetric survey of Tomales Bay and noted that strong tidal currents at the mouth of the bay had created a large field of sandwaves, dunes, and flats (unit Qsw). Unit Qkdtb is a small subaqueous sandy delta deposited at the mouth of Keys Creek, the largest coastal watershed draining into this northern part of Tomales Bay. Unit Qstb occurs south of units Qsw and Qdtb, and comprises largely flat seafloor underlain by mixed sand and silt. Unit Qdtb consists of depressions within the sedimentary fill of Tomales Bay. These depressions commonly occur directly offshore of coastal promontories, cover as much as 74,000 sq m, and are as deep as 9 m.
Map unit polygons were digitized over underlying 2-meter base layers developed from multibeam bathymetry and backscatter data (see Bathymetry--Offshore of Tomales Point, California and Backscattter A to D--Offshore of Tomales Point, California, DS 781). The bathymetry and backscatter data were collected between 2006 and 2010.
References Cited
Anima, R. A., Chin, J.L., Finlayson, D.P., McGann, M.L., and Wong, F.L., 2008, Interferometric sidescan bathymetry, sediment and foraminiferal analyses; a new look at Tomales Bay, Califorina: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008 - 1237, 33 p.
Brown, R.D., Jr., and Wolfe, E.W., 1972, Map showing recently active breaks along the San Andreas Fault between Point Delgada and Bolinas Bay, California: U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Investigations Map I-692, scale 1:24,000.
Bryant, W.A., and Lundberg, M.M., compilers, 2002, Fault number 1b, San Andreas fault zone, North Coast section, in Quaternary fault and fold database of the United States: U.S. Geological Survey website, accessed April 4, 2013 at
Cacchione, D.A., Drake, D.E., Grant, W.D., and Tate, G.B., 1984, Rippled scour depressions of the inner continental shelf off central California: Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, v. 54, p. 1,280-1,291.
Grove, K., and Niemi, T.M., 2005, Late Quaternary deformation and slip rates in the northern San Andreas fault zone at Olema Valley, Marin County, California: Tectonophysics, v. 401, p. 231-250.
Grove, K, Sklar, L.S., Scherer, A.M., Lee, G., and Davis, J., 2010, Accelerating and spatially-varying crustal uplift and its geomorphic expression, San Andreas fault zone north of San Francisco, California: Tectonophysics, v. 495, p. 256-268.
Klise, D.H., 1984, Modern sedimentation on the California continental margin adjacent to the Russian River: M.S. thesis, San Jose State University, 120 p.
Hallenbeck, T.R., Kvitek, R.G., and Lindholm, J., 2012, Rippled scour depressions add ecologically significant heterogeneity to soft-bottom habitats on the continental shelf: Marine Ecology Progress Series, v. 468, p. 119-133.
Lambeck, K., and Chappell, J., 2001, Sea level change through the last glacial cycle: Science, v. 292, p. 679-686, doi: 10.1126/science.1059549.
Lawson, A.C., ed., 1908, The California earthquake of April 18, 1906, Report of the State Earthquake Investigation Commission: Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication 87, v. 1, 1451 p. and atlas.
Lomax, A., 2005, A reanalysis of the hypocentral location and related observations for the Great 1906 California earthquake: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, v. 95, p. 861-877.
McCulloch, D.S., 1987, Regional geology and hydrocarbon potential of offshore central California, in Scholl, D.W., Grantz, A., and Vedder, J.G., eds., Geology and Resource Potential of the Continental Margin of Western North America and Adjacent Oceans -- Beaufort Sea to Baja California: Houston, Texas, Circum-Pacific Council for Energy and Mineral Resources, Earth Science Series, v. 6., p. 353-401.
National Park Service, 2012, Shipwrecks at Point Reyes, accessed May 1, 2013 at:
Map political location: San Mateo County, California Compilation scale: 1:24,000 Base maps used are hillshades generated from IfSAR, LiDAR, and multibeam mapping both onshore and offshore (see Bathymetry Hillshade--Offshore of Tomales Point, California, DS 781, for more information).
  1. How might this data set be cited?
    Hartwell, S.R., Johnson, S.Y., and Manson, M.W., 2014, Geology and geomorphology--Offshore of Tomales Point Map Area, California:.

    This is part of the following larger work.

    Golden, Nadine E., 2013, California State Waters Map Series Data Catalog: Data Series DS 781, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA.

    Online Links:

  2. What geographic area does the data set cover?
    West_Bounding_Coordinate: -123.09
    East_Bounding_Coordinate: -122.89
    North_Bounding_Coordinate: 38.25
    South_Bounding_Coordinate: 38.10
  3. What does it look like?
    <> (JPEG)
    Geology offshore Tomales Bay.
  4. Does the data set describe conditions during a particular time period?
    Beginning_Date: 2006
    Ending_Date: 2010
    ground condition
  5. What is the general form of this data set?
    Geospatial_Data_Presentation_Form: vector digital data
  6. How does the data set represent geographic features?
    1. How are geographic features stored in the data set?
      This is a Vector data set. It contains the following vector data types (SDTS terminology):
      • GT-polygon composed of chains (730)
    2. What coordinate system is used to represent geographic features?
      The map projection used is WGS 1984 UTM Zone 10N.
      Projection parameters:
      Scale_Factor_at_Central_Meridian: 0.9996
      Longitude_of_Central_Meridian: -123.0
      Latitude_of_Projection_Origin: 0.0
      False_Easting: 500000.0
      False_Northing: 0.0
      Planar coordinates are encoded using coordinate pair
      Abscissae (x-coordinates) are specified to the nearest 0.0001
      Ordinates (y-coordinates) are specified to the nearest 0.0001
      Planar coordinates are specified in Meter
      The horizontal datum used is D WGS 1984.
      The ellipsoid used is WGS 1984.
      The semi-major axis of the ellipsoid used is 6378137.0.
      The flattening of the ellipsoid used is 1/298.257223563.
  7. How does the data set describe geographic features?
    Polygons representing geologic / geomorphic map units (Source: This report)
    Internal feature number. (Source: ESRI) Sequential unique whole numbers that are automatically generated.
    Feature geometry. (Source: ESRI) Coordinates defining the features.
    Map Unit abbreviation (Source: This report)
    QsrRough seafloor
    QmsMarine nearshore and shelf deposits
    QmsdMarine shelf scour depressions
    QmscCoarse-grained marine nearshore and shelf deposits
    QmsfFine-grained marine shelf deposits
    QstbSediments of central Tomales Bay
    QswSand at the mouth of Tomales Bay
    QkdtbSubaqueous delta at the mouth of Walker Creek
    QdtbSeafloor depressions in Tomales Bay
    TuSedimentary rocks, undivided
    TlLaird Sandstone
    KgGranitic rocks
    short description of map unit (Source: This report) text description of map unit
    Length of feature in internal units. (Source: ESRI) Positive real numbers that are automatically generated.
    Area of feature in internal units squared. (Source: ESRI) Positive real numbers that are automatically generated.
    Representation rule identifier (Source: This report) This field contains the representation rule in the ArcGIS file geodatabase which applies a solid color fill of a specified CMYK value to each polygon. Representation rules have the same name as the map unit abbreviation.

Who produced the data set?

  1. Who are the originators of the data set? (may include formal authors, digital compilers, and editors)
    • S.R. Hartwell
    • S.Y. Johnson
    • M.W. Manson
  2. Who also contributed to the data set?
  3. To whom should users address questions about the data?
    USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
    Attn: Stephen Hartwell
    400 Natural Bridges Drive
    Santa Cruz, CA

    (831) 460-7814 (voice)
    (831) 427-4748 (FAX)

Why was the data set created?

To expand geologic mapping to the seafloor within the California's State Waters, to update coastal geologic mapping, and to contribute to a uniform regional geologic database, which can be used geographic information systems. Additionally, to provide a geologic map for the public and geoscience community to aid in assessments and mitigation of geologic hazards in the San Gregorio coastal region and to provide sufficient geologic information for land-use and land-management decisions both onshore and offshore. This information is not intended for navigational purposes.

How was the data set created?

  1. From what previous works were the data drawn?
    DS 781 (source 1 of 3)
    Dartnell, Peter, and Kvitek, Rikk G., 2014, Bathymetry--Offshore of Tomales Point Map Area, California: Data Series DS 781, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA.

    Online Links:

    See metadata for bathymetry ("Bathymetry_OffshoreTomalesPoint_metadata.txt") in DS 781 for source data and postprocessing/reprocessing information.
    Type_of_Source_Media: digital file of gridded bathymetry data (ArcInfo GRID)
    Source_Contribution: Gridded bathymetry data (2-meter resolution).
    DS 781 (source 2 of 3)
    See metadata for backscatter datasets ("BackscatterA_8101_OffshoreTomalesPoint_metadata.txt", "BackscatterB_7125_OffshoreTomalesPoint_metadata.txt", "BackscatterC_Swath_OffshoreTomalesPoint_metadata.txt", and "BackscatterD_USGS_OffshoreTomalesPoint_metadata.txt") in DS 781 for amplitude source data and postprocessing/reprocessing information.
    Type_of_Source_Media: digital file of gridded amplitude data (ArcInfo GRID)
    Source_Contribution: Gridded amplitude data (2-meter resolution).
    S-15-10-NC (source 3 of 3)
    U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) , Coastal and Marine Geology Program (CMGP), 2013, Seismic-reflection data acquisition data of field activity S-15-10-NC in offshore Pescadero from 08/02/2010 to 08/04/2010: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) , Coastal and Marine Geology (CMG), Menlo Park, CA.

    Online Links:

    Type_of_Source_Media: ASCII lat/long shot point files
    Digital seismic data used to interpret subsurface geologic structure
  2. How were the data generated, processed, and modified?
    Date: 2012 (process 1 of 7)
    Faults were mapped onto shot lines based on the latitude and longitude of seismic picks from field activity S-15-10-NC.
    Date: 2012 (process 2 of 7)
    Map unit polygons were digitized over underlying 2-meter base layers developed from multibeam bathymetry and backscatter data. Derivatives such as slope and curvature were generated from source rasters. Interpreted rasters include amplitude, hillshaded bathymetry (using various illumination angles and vertical exaggeration), slope, and curvature. Curvature was decomposed into profile and plan curvature for analysis purposes.
    Date: 2011 (process 3 of 7)
    The mapped area was extended to the shoreline by using digital orthophotos to interpret the region between the inner edge of the multibeam bathymetry and the approximate shoreline. The approximate shoreline was generated at the NAVD88 +1.46 m contour, defined as the operational MHW shoreline by Weber and others (2005). The resulting boundary was transformed to WGS 84 UTM Zone 10 North in ArcGIS 10 using the NAD83 to WGS84 (ITRF00) transformation algorithm. This boundary was then used to extend and trim both onshore and offshore geology in the print and PDF product. The transformed boundary is contained within the WGS84 "contours" feature class and identified as a water boundary in the associated representation rules.
    Only data for offshore map units are released digitally in this publication. For onshore geology see Clark and Brabb (1997) and Wagner and Gutierrez (2010). Onshore Quaternary mapping was compiled from Wagner and Gutierrez (2010), with unit contacts modified based on analysis of 2012 LiDAR map; and additional unpublished mapping by M.W. Manson. Quaternary unit designations are from Witter and ohters (2006). San Andreas Fault traces are from California Geological Survey (1974).
    References Cited:
    California Geological Survey, 1974, Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone Maps of Annapolis and Plantation quadrangles, scale 1:24,000.
    Clark, J.C., and Brabb, E.E., 1997, Geology of Point Reyes National Seashore and Vicnity, California: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 97-456, map scale 1:48,000.
    Wagner, D.L., and Gutierrez, C.I., 2010, Preliminary Geologic Map of the Napa 30'x60' Quadrangle, California: California Geological Survey, scale 1:100,000.
    Weber, K.M., List, J.H., and Morgan, K.L., 2005, An operational Mean High Water datum for determination of shoreline position from topographic lidar data: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2005 - 1027, accessed April 5, 2011, at
    Witter, R.C., Knudsen, K.L., Sowers, J.M., Wentworth, C.M., Koehler, R.D., Randolph, C.E., Brooks, S.K., and Gans, K.D., 2006, Maps of Quaternary Deposits and Liquefaction Susceptibility in the Central San Francisco Bay Region, California, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 06 - 1037, scale 1:24,000.
    Date: 05-Oct-2017 (process 4 of 7)
    Added Distribution_Information section to metadata to facilitate data download. Person who carried out this activity:
    U.S. Geological Survey
    Attn: Alan O. Allwardt
    Contractor -- Information Specialist
    2885 Mission Street
    Santa Cruz, CA

    831-460-7551 (voice)
    831-427-4748 (FAX)
    Date: 05-Oct-2017 (process 5 of 7)
    Keywords section of metadata optimized for discovery in USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Data Catalog. Person who carried out this activity:
    U.S. Geological Survey
    Attn: Alan O. Allwardt
    Contractor -- Information Specialist
    2885 Mission Street
    Santa Cruz, CA

    831-460-7551 (voice)
    831-427-4748 (FAX)
    Date: 26-Apr-2018 (process 6 of 7)
    Added keywords from Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) to metadata. Person who carried out this activity:
    U.S. Geological Survey
    Attn: Alan O. Allwardt
    Contractor -- Information Specialist
    2885 Mission Street
    Santa Cruz, CA

    831-460-7551 (voice)
    831-427-4748 (FAX)
    Date: 19-Oct-2020 (process 7 of 7)
    Edited metadata to add keywords section with USGS persistent identifier as theme keyword. No data were changed. Person who carried out this activity:
    U.S. Geological Survey
    Attn: VeeAnn A. Cross
    Marine Geologist
    384 Woods Hole Road
    Woods Hole, MA

    508-548-8700 x2251 (voice)
    508-457-2310 (FAX)
  3. What similar or related data should the user be aware of?

How reliable are the data; what problems remain in the data set?

  1. How well have the observations been checked?
  2. How accurate are the geographic locations?
    Polygons were primarily mapped by one of the following methods: (1) interpretation of 2-meter-resolution hillshaded bathymetry data from bathymetric lidar and sonar surveys (see Bathymetry Hillshade--Offshore of Tomales Point, California, DS 781, for more information); (2) interpretation of 2-meter-resolution amplitude (backscatter) data from bathymetric sonar surveys (see BackscatterA_8101; BackscatterB_7125; BackscatterC_Swath; and BackscatterD_USGS--Offshore of Tomales Point, California, DS 781, for more information); (3) interpretation of 2-meter interpretation of seismic-reflection-profile data (see field activity S-15-10-NC).
    Map Unit contact locations were interpreted typically at a scale of between 1:1,000 and 1:2,000 using the above base data. Bathymetric sonar and LiDAR data have a horizontal accuracy greater than the resolution of the base data.
    Map unit contacts were digitized by heads-up screen digitization of line data on 2-meter-resolution DEMs described above. Horizontal accuracy is estimated to be between 2 and 5 meters depending on how clearly contacts can be resolved.
    Most digitized positions on the map are estimated to have better than 5 m horizontal accuracy. There is no elevation data in the database.
  3. How accurate are the heights or depths?
  4. Where are the gaps in the data? What is missing?
    Data are complete: no offshore features that could be accurately identified and represented at the compilation scale of 1:24,000 were eliminated or generalized. The smallest area represented is approximately 100 square meters. All geospatial database elements are attributed.
  5. How consistent are the relationships among the observations, including topology?
    Map elements were visually checked for overshoots, undershoots, duplicate features, polygon closure, and other errors by the lead authors and by the GIS technician(s) who created the digital database. Review drafts of the map were reviewed internally by at least two other geologists for consistency with basic geologic principles and general conformity to USGS mapping standards.

How can someone get a copy of the data set?

Are there legal restrictions on access or use of the data?
If physical samples or materials are available, constraints on their on-site access are described in "WR CMG Sample Distribution Policy" at URL:
This information is not intended for navigational purposes.
Read and fully comprehend the metadata prior to data use. Uses of these data should not violate the spatial resolution of the data. Where these data are used in combination with other data of different resolution, the resolution of the combined output will be limited by the lowest resolution of all the data.
Acknowledge the U.S. Geological Survey in products derived from these data. Share data products developed using these data with the U.S. Geological Survey.
This database has been approved for release and publication by the Director of the USGS. Although this database has been subjected to rigorous review and is substantially complete, the USGS reserves the right to revise the data pursuant to further analysis and review. Furthermore, it is released on condition that neither the USGS nor the United States Government may be held liable for any damages resulting from its authorized or unauthorized use.
Although this Federal Geographic Data Committee-compliant metadata file is intended to document these data in nonproprietary form, as well as in ArcInfo format, this metadata file may include some ArcInfo-specific terminology.
  1. Who distributes the data set? (Distributor 1 of 1)
    U.S. Geological Survey
    345 Middlefield Rd
    Menlo Park, CA

    (650) 329-4309 (voice)
  2. What's the catalog number I need to order this data set?
  3. What legal disclaimers am I supposed to read?
    Unless otherwise stated, all data, metadata and related materials are considered to satisfy the quality standards relative to the purpose for which the data were collected. Although these data and associated metadata have been reviewed for accuracy and completeness and approved for release by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), no warranty expressed or implied is made regarding the display or utility of the data on any other system or for general or scientific purposes, nor shall the act of distribution constitute any such warranty.
  4. How can I download or order the data?

Who wrote the metadata?

Last modified: 19-Oct-2020
Metadata author:
U.S. Geological Survey, Coastal and Marine Geology Program
Attn: Stephen R. Hartwell
400 Natural Bridges Drive
Santa Cruz, CA

831-460-7814 (voice)
831-427-4748 (FAX)
Metadata standard:
FGDC Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (FGDC-STD-001-1998)

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