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Cenozoic Evolution of San Joaquin Basin, California

J. Alan Bartow

The Neogene San Joaquin basin in the southern part of the 700-km long Great Valley of California is a successor to a late Mesozoic and earliest Tertiary forearc basin. The transition from forearc basin to the more restricted Neogene marine basin occurred principally during the Paleogene as the plate tectonic setting changed from oblique convergence to normal convergence, and finally to the initiation of tangential (transform) movement near the end of the Oligocene.

Regional-scale tectonic events that affected the basin include: (1) clockwise rotation of the southernmost Sierra Nevada, and large-scale en echelon folding in the southern Diablo Range, both perhaps related to Late Cretaceous and early Tertiary right slip on the proto-San Andreas fault; (2) regional uplift of southern California in the Oligocene that resulted from the subduction of the Pacific-Farallon spreading ridge; (3) extensional tectonism in the Basin and Range province, particularly in the Miocene; (4) wrench tectonism adjacent to the San Andreas fault in the Neogene; (5) northeastward emplacement of a wedge of the Franciscan complex at the west side of the Sierran block, with associated deep-seated thrusting in the late Cenozoic; and (6) the accelerated uplift of the Sierra N vada beginning in the late Miocene. Neogene basin history was controlled principally by the tectonic effects of the northwestward migration of the Mendocino triple junction along the California continental margin and by the subsequent wrench tectonism associated with the San Andreas fault system. East-west compression in the basin, resulting from extension in the Basin and Range province was an important contributing factor to crustal shortening at the west side of the valley. Analysis of the sedimentary history of the basin, which was controlled to some extent by eustatic sea level change, enables reconstruction of the basin paleogeography through the Cenozoic.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91035©1988 AAPG-SEPM-SEG Pacific Sections and SPWLA Annual Convention, Santa Barbara, California, 17-19 April 1988.