Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Photomosaics and logs associated with study of West Napa Fault at Ehlers Lane, north of Saint Helena, California

January 24, 2022

The West Napa Fault has previously been mapped as extending ~45 kilometers (km) from northern Vallejo to southern Saint Helena, California, dominantly running along the western edge of Napa Valley. A zone of fault strands (some previously unmapped) along a ~15-km section of the fault ruptured during the 2014 magnitude 6.0 South Napa earthquake, illustrating the need for further investigation of this little-studied structure. Based on light detection and ranging (lidar) topography and field examination, the fault zone likely extends an additional 10 km or more northward past Saint Helena. In this vicinity, geomorphology suggests two fault strands, one along the range front and another associated with a line of rounded hills that rise 5–10 meters above the middle of the valley. In 2017, we excavated two trenches across an apparent fault scarp on the east side of one elongate hill near Ehlers Lane north of Saint Helena. Examination of the walls revealed three main sedimentary packages. The oldest package, weakly lithified alluvial fan gravels with local sand and silt layers, is tilted 25°–35° to the west. Overlying these tilted strata are two younger sets of strata. On the west side, underlying the crest of the scarp, are alluvial fan gravels with local sand and silt lenses, potentially tilted a few degrees to the west. On the east side, deposited against the scarp, are much finer grained (dominantly fine sand to silt) subhorizontal fluvial strata, likely overbank deposits from the Napa River. We obtained age control on the two younger units through a combination of radiocarbon, infrared-stimulated luminescence, and obsidian hydration dating, establishing that they are latest Pleistocene to modern in age. Although there are no prominent unconformities within the alluvial fan sediments, sample dating indicates there are two generations, one in the 10–20 thousand year (ka) age range and one in the <3 ka age range. Owing to a general lack of well-defined laterally continuous alluvial fan units, it is difficult to distinguish contacts between the two generations except in the immediate proximity of dated samples. The river sediments approximately span the Holocene. No faults were apparent in either trench, indicating that any fault related to the observed surface deformation has not ruptured to the surface at this site during the Holocene and is likely blind.

Publication Year 2022
Title Photomosaics and logs associated with study of West Napa Fault at Ehlers Lane, north of Saint Helena, California
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221002
Authors Belle E. Philibosian, Robert R. Sickler, Carol S. Prentice, Alexandra J. Pickering, Patrick Gannon, Kiara N. Broudy, Shannon A. Mahan, Jazmine N. Titular, Eli A. Turner, Cameron Folmar, Sierra F. Patterson, Emilie E. Bowman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2022-1002
Index ID ofr20221002
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center; Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center