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Geologic map and borehole stratigraphy of Hinkley Valley and vicinity, San Bernardino County, California

December 18, 2020

Hinkley Valley, in the central to western Mojave Desert of southeastern California, has a long historical record owing to its position as a crossroads for rail and road traffic and its position adjacent to the Mojave River. Subflow in the Mojave River provided groundwater recharge that maintained water consumption and demand by way of shallow wells for local agriculture in the valley. Its crossroads position led to construction of several power-transmission lines, pipeline, and communications cable routes that transect Hinkley Valley. One of these, a natural gas pipeline and its associated compressor station, was the locus of hexavalent chromium, Cr(VI), released into, and consequent contamination of, groundwater. Understanding the movement and fate of the contaminants is a complex hydrologic and geochemical problem. Geologic mapping of the Hinkley Valley area provides framework elements for use in resolving this problem. This report provides new information on surface and subsurface geology to better constrain the origin and geometry of hydrologically important deposits in the Hinkley Valley area and describes youthful faults that may control sediment distribution and groundwater flow. The geologic map (sheet 1) presents substantial new information on surficial geology, including Pliocene deposits, but does not contain significant new work on bedrock. Bedrock investigations were specific to identifying youthful faults and representative outcrops for rocks that were penetrated by boreholes in the valley. Special attention was placed on locating and describing youthful faults. In addition, we analyzed gravity data to (1) map horizontal gradients that we interpret to reflect long-term fault traces and to (2) estimate the depth to bedrock, which is defined as Miocene and older intrusive and metamorphic rocks for the purposes of this report. The subsurface geology of Hinkley Valley was investigated by examining borehole sediment cores and rock encountered at the base of the sediment section. We analyzed the core to determine depositional environments, provenance, and age of the sediment that infilled the valley. Valleys, mountains, and basins in the Hinkley Valley area are topographically complex and incompletely named. The nearly flat floored Hinkley Valley slopes gently northward. It is framed by Mount General and the informally named “Hinkley hills” (southeast of Mount General) on the northeast and by Iron Mountain and Lynx Cat Mountain on the southwest, although breaks in the western mountains allow stream connections between Hinkley Valley and another valley to the west that is herein referred to as Hawes valley. At its south end, Hinkley Valley is traversed by the entrenched Mojave River, which passes east out of the valley past Barstow. North of Hinkley Valley, a few low hills (including Red Hill) separate the valley from a broad west-sloping piedmont that is part of the physiographic Harper Basin (of which the Harper Lake playa is the center). The lower part of this piedmont, however, is referred to as Water Valley, although it is not a distinct valley. The name derives from groundwater sourced from subflow in the Mojave River, which caused shallow water and even artesian flow in Water Valley but not in other parts of the Harper Basin. When water filled the Harper Basin to form Pleistocene Lake Harper it not only submerged Water Valley but also northern Hinkley Valley.

Publication Year 2020
Title Geologic map and borehole stratigraphy of Hinkley Valley and vicinity, San Bernardino County, California
DOI 10.3133/sim3458
Authors David M. Miller, Victoria E. Langenheim, Elizabeth K. Haddon
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Map
Series Number 3458
Index ID sim3458
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center