Rancho Mirage: San Andreas Fault Line
One of the best-known geological features in the U.S., the San Andreas Fault is a tear in the earth’s crust that marks the line between the Pacific tectonic plate and the North American tectonic plate.
It stretches 810 miles from Northern California to the Salton Sea. The fault is perhaps best known for causing the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco that resulted in massive fires and devastation. A popular sightseeing destination, the line is fascinating for geological buffs, as well as the intellectually curious. Visiting this attraction is a great educational experience that you won’t want to miss.
Although it’s easy to find the San Andreas Fault, actually viewing it poses a challenge. Instead of appearing as a giant crack in the ground, its evidences are subtler. Erosion fills have covered the fault, and neighborhoods have been built on top of it. However, you can observe the signs, including a bend in a railroad track, change in direction of a creek, dip in the road, and different rocks on either side of the line. Most of the places where you encounter the fault look like this; nonetheless, the line itself can be seen and touched in certain locations.
While the San Andreas can be seen from a distance at Joshua Tree National Park, you can most easily access it from Coachella Valley cities such as Palm Springs, Indio, and Desert Hot Springs. Several companies offer tours to the fault, and they are highly recommended. The guides provide interesting information and the drives to the line feature amazing desert scenery. You’re likely to see bubbling water pushed up from the fault, which produces an oasis that nourishes lush flora, along with fauna like birds and lizards. Since such tours involve walking, take plenty of water and wear sturdy shoes.
For tourists who don’t mind a long drive from Rancho Mirage, the state has other options for viewing the effects of the fault. One choice is to go to the Channel Islands, which were formed by the movement of the two tectonic plates. When you take a ferry that runs from Oxnard and Ventura to the islands, you can see the geological uplift of land from the vantage point of the water. Another choice involves a trip to the Carrizo Plain National Monument, which is 65 miles west of Bakersfield. It has a lake that is dry much of the year, but sometimes is fed by Wallace Creek, a world-famous part of the fault. The plate boundary is well defined and can be clearly seen because little erosion has occurred in the area.
San Andreas Exhibit
These tours are very enlightening, but additional knowledge about the fault can be found in the San Bernardino County Museum. It houses a Hall of Earth Science exhibit that teaches about plate tectonics and shows why the possibility of The Big One is something of which to be aware.
The address is 2024 Orange Tree Lane