California’s coastal geology began in the ocean. Our state is a compilation of Pacific Plate island arcs; like the Hawaiian Island chain, that converged and were forced by subduction under the North American Plate, until the appearance of the San Andrea Fault. The Central Coast exhibits visible evidence of our geological history from Guadalupe to Big Sur. Here on the coast, we sit on a constantly shifting piece of the Earth’s crust and we’re also on the western rim of “The Ring of Fire” where the majority of the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and plate shifting occurs. For millions of years, the topography of California has been shaped and reshaped by glaciers, plate tectonics, volcanic activity, and earthquakes.
In Montana de Oro State Park, we’ll explore wave-cut marine terraces, shale coves, and sand dunes, and climb 220,000 yr-old Valencia Peak; an uplifted marine terrace rising 1347 feet above the park. We’ll explore Bishop’s Peak, one of the seven named volcanic plugs known locally as the “Seven Sisters”, and examine the pillow lava formations near Port San Luis. We’ll examine the geology of Oso Flaco Lake Dunes and the Pismo Dunes Reserve. Field trips will allow us to examine the geology of Pinnacles National Monument, and to explore the Talus caves formed by huge boulders. We’ll also visit the “Earthquake Capital of the World” Parkfield, Calif. On the way we’ll stop at the San Andreas Fault so students can explore the fault line up close and see the visible effects of fault activity.