The Cedars-analog for Mars in N Cal Coast Ranges


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Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 12, 2011 - 01:58am PT
Serpentinization, the hydration of olivine and pyroxene minerals at moderate temperatures [100 to 300C], generates heat, hydrogen and other materials relevant to supporting and possibly originating life. Olivine and pyroxene make up > 50% of the earth's mantle. These are primordial minerals that are present on the moon, mars, meteorites, etc.

The Cedars are located in Sonoma County, north of Cazadero, in the headwaters of Austin Creek and in the Central Belt Franciscan Complex. It is a serpentine mountain range with perennial mineral springs, travertine deposits and chromium ore.

USGS Sonoma County Geologic Map (sp=serpentine)

Generalized USGS cross-section through the Cedars

Serpentine mountains.

Outcrop of cataclastic (cata- for catastrophic and -clastic for fragmentation)serpentine.

Biogeochemists and microbiologists from JPL and NASA have been studying the chemistry and bacteria in the highly alkaline (pH=10-12), highly reducing, oxygen-depleted, hydrogen-rich mineral springs and consider these springs to be a Martian analog.
"Wedding Cake" travertine deposits

Some great swimming holes too.


the last bivy
Feb 12, 2011 - 02:05am PT
very cool.. where's that swimming hole?

Feb 12, 2011 - 02:31am PT
Wow, that looks real cool, thanks. I'd really like to check that out.

I've been meaning to visit Austin Creek - unfortunately the goddam park is closed thanks to our pathetic state. I thought it was just trees, I didn't see those rocks to the north.

That land looks like it is private?

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 12, 2011 - 02:38am PT
Unfortunately the Cedars is not readily accessible to the public because it is surrounded by private property. However, the California Native Plant Society periodically sponsors tours to the area.

Feb 12, 2011 - 03:26am PT
Thanks for the additional info. I tried googling "The Cedars" but that was a little too generic. That is a part of California I had no idea about.

I love those out-of-the way places. This weekend I plan to wander around the Sunol Wilderness, a quick escape. Just to check out some dumb trails and a campsite I haven't seen yet. There's some serpentine there and some other interesting rocks.

The more I see of it, the more I love this state. Kick myself for getting on the road so late.

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 12, 2011 - 04:07am PT
"That is weird, wild, stuff."
nick d

Trad climber
Feb 12, 2011 - 04:24am PT
Thank you Johny!
Jerry Dodrill

Sebastopol, CA
Feb 12, 2011 - 08:08am PT
Pretty cool! I've seen some other wedding cake formations like that, much bigger iirc, north of Lake Sonoma as well. Haven't been there for years.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Who'll stop the reign?
Feb 12, 2011 - 08:38am PT
Thanks TT. I've tried to get out there a few times over the years, closest is from the Knoxville off road area but the no trespass on that road is adamant. I didn't try to test it. The proximity of the off road area insures the land owner will be diligent.

But sandwiched in between the Cedars and the McLaughlin mine is a pretty cool serpentinite area, not as dramatic as those photos of the Cedars but pretty extensive anyway. I think the McLaughlin unearthed fossilized travertine terraces like the ones you showed, and crunched them up for the gold. Lots of really cool mineral photos on the UC Davis McLaughlin mine site I think.

McNabb cyprus in that area are a good indicator species - the cyprus thrives on serpentinite-derived soils. There is a good stand along the Knoxville Berryessa Rd, as it climbs from old Knoxville up to Morgan valley.


ps. here you go, the minerals of the McLaughlin mine
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
Feb 12, 2011 - 10:35am PT
I used to go to scout camp off Austin Creek. You weren't supposed to do it, but there was a great jumping rock into the creek that was probably some type of serpentine. We'd swim there everyday, and once the officials left, we'd jump off the cliffs.

Trad climber
Feb 12, 2011 - 11:02am PT

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 12, 2011 - 11:48am PT
DMT: thanks for that link to the McLaughlin mine. I'm going to check that place out some time.

Here's a link to a UC Davis website. Click on the sidebars if you are interested in the isotopic analysis of the mineral springs.

There's also several photos like this one...

Trad climber
Feb 13, 2011 - 08:51pm PT
Cool Stuff.

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2011 - 11:31pm PT
another photo of a travertine deposit where an alkaline mineral spring discharges from fractured serpentine

from out where the anecdotes roam
Mar 1, 2017 - 07:31am PT

Mar 1, 2017 - 07:52am PT
Man, TFPU! I don't know how I missed I have some fun reading tonight!!

When I lived in Soulsbyville we'd do this bike ride over to Tuolumne City and cross through a cool serpentine zone, I have a cool shark fin shape specimen from there in my collection.
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
Mar 1, 2017 - 08:04am PT
Tradster, Totally awesome content! California is as beautiful and cool below the surface as it is at the surface. You folks really do suffer from an embarrassment of riches.

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 1, 2017 - 08:42am PT
I'm glad you guys enjoyed are some more photos...

An entire mountain range of Serpentine. When you realize that these rocks have travelled 10s of kilometers from the earth's upper mantle to where they crop out today is remarkable, to say the least...


Trad climber
the middle of CA
Mar 1, 2017 - 08:48am PT
Really cool stuff, thank you. A whole mountain made of our state rock, didn't know this area existed.

Doesn't serpentine contain asbestos? Don't breathe the rocks!

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 1, 2017 - 08:54am PT

Use of Serpentine: Asbestos
Some varieties of serpentine have a fibrous habit. These fibers resist the transfer of heat, do not burn, and serve as excellent insulators. The serpentine mineral chrysotile is common, found in many parts of the world, is easily mined, and can be processed to recover the heat-resistant fibers.

The use of chrysotile and other serpentine minerals with an asbestiform habit as insulators has been widespread. They were widely available, effective in their applications and inexpensive to produce. By the middle of the 20th century, they could be found in most buildings and vehicles. They were used to make wall and ceiling tiles, flooring, shingles, facing material, pipe insulation, stoves, paints, and many other common construction materials and appliances.

After they were discovered to be connected to lung and other cancers, their use was mostly discontinued, and a campaign to remove them from many of their uses began. Removal programs have been ongoing for decades and are still being done today. It has been one of the most costly removal programs in history.

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