Geologic Features and Landscapes
Geological Gems of California State Parks: This 2015 document, by the CA Geological Survey and CA State Parks, highlights California’s geologic legacy through the description of more than 50 “GeoGem” notes. You can download the document here:
Hardcopies of the document are available, for purchase, at the CA Department of Conservation, Geological Survey website:
Geologic features and landscapes are represented throughout the State Park System, providing spectacular examples of mountain peaks, coastal cliffs, headlands, beaches and dunes, desert surfaces and canyons, and unique physical environments, such as caves, lava fields, and tufa structures. In addition to providing beautiful landscapes on macro as well as micro scales, geologic processes also are responsible for a number of hazards to human developments such as fault activity, landslides, erosion and mass wasting, subsidence, and volcanic eruptions.
Rock outcrops attract visitors for a variety of reasons from recreational to scientific study. (Rock Climbing Policy - DN93-25 in pdf format). The California Gold Rush is well-represented from a geologic as well as historic viewpoint at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, Empire Mine State Historic Park, and Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park. Many park units serve an important role as outdoor classrooms, and are the destination of many academic geology field trips, where students can see actual geologic features, such as lithologic contacts, faults, igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks in their natural setting. The Department protects and manages geologic features and resources to ensure that the magnificence and beauty of these resources will endure in perpetuity. Park development and management activities are designed to promote natural processes and avoid impacts to physical geological resources. Park policies and guidelines provide direction to ensure that physical geologic resources are protected, along with the diverse plant and animal habitats within the State Park System.
Geologic Links to Other Resources
Geologic characteristics are responsible for soil formation, landscape shape and erodibility. These characteristics of basic geology influences plant growth and animal habitat, distribution, and migration patterns. Geologic issues are often key to resource planning and management on a watershed scale. Sediments accumulate behind dams, mass wasting and erosion can degrade water quality, and historic extractive activites, such as logging and mining, can change the shape of the land and how geologic processes function.
Knowledge about the potential for geolgic hazards in the State Park Sytem helps park managers avoid risks to public saftey, and guides park planners and developers to avoid and mitigate hazards, such as fault rupture, earthquake shaking, landslides, blockfalls, ground subsidence, flooding, and volcanic activity. While not all of these hazards have occurred in the State Park System on a human time scale, the geologic record documents all of these hazards. Through education of our staff managers and application of our scientific and geologic process knowledge, we can avoid unnecessary damage and loss of public facilities and resources.
State Park System properties clustered along the coast are subject to beach and cliff erosion. Beach and cliff erosion are recognized as natural processes, and park facilities are designed to accommodate the conditions of the natural physical environment to the maximum extent feasible through application of DPR’s Coastal Erosion Policy (Coastal Erosion Policy - DN99-18 in pdf format). Hazard avoidance, setbacks, use of portable or seasonally removed facilities, and “soft” approaches such as beach nourishment and re-vegetation, are used.
Scientific Collecting Permits
The rich geologic inventory of the State Park System attracts scientists from all over the nation who delve into a wide spectrum of academic and applied research projects from fault history, lithology, stratigraphic investigations, geochronology, geomagnetics, seacliff retreat, beach and cliff erosion and seismology, vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology and paleobotany. Park managers apply the results of this work in a variety of ways, from promoting centers for park geology research to enhancing interpretive collections and displays.