Geology List

Geology Thumbnail Index

Mojave Desert Geology

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California’s geomorphic provinces are naturally defined geologic regions that … Earthquakes & Faults ยท San Andreas Fault. Summary of the earthquake fault …

Cajon Pass Geology

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Heteromyid rodents from Miocene faunas of the Mojave Desert, Southern California. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Science Series 41; p. 213-236.

Geology of Red Rock Canyon

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Red Rock Canyon California State Park. The geologic story of Red Rock Canyon is told by its …

Death Valley Geology

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California/Nevada Death Valley Regional Geology. Field Trip Guide. Walk Through Time. Badwater with Telescope …

Geology of Mojave Preserve

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Mesozoic Rocks. Source – NPS, Cinder cones national natural landmark. Kelso Dunes, Mojave Preserve, Eastern Mojave Desert Banshee …

The Mojave Desert – Shaping the Classic American Desert

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The area of most dramatic relief is around Death Valley, California, where the elevation drops from 3,400 m above sea level at Telescope Peak to 88 m below sea …

Desert Sand Dune Geology

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The Geology of Sand Dunes. While one-quarter to one-third of the world’s deserts are covered with sand, little research has taken …

Mojave Preserve Geology – Landforms

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Desert landscape and surface processes study, Mojave National Preserve.

Hole in the Wall – Mojave Preserve

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Mojave Preserve – Geology. Hole-in-the-Wall. Hidden violence. Visitors to Mojave National Preserve are fascinated by the brightly colored, …

The Mojave River and Associated Lakes – Mojave Desert Geology

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Desert landscape and surface processes study, Mojave National Preserve.

Geology – Death Valley Rock Samples – Mojave Desert

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A rock formation is a body of rock of a considerable extent with distinctive characteristics that allow geologists to map, describe, and name it. The sample rocks …

Geology of the Death Valley Region

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The three sites in this area lie in the extreme southeast corner of Death Valley National Park immediately west of California Highway 127 which provides the …

Introduction to Geology of the Mojave Desert

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Far from being static, the geology of Earth is dynamic, in constant motion and change. The crust is a puzzle made up of tectonic plates, shifting against …

Geology of Joshua Tree

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Mojave Desert Geology: Joshua Tree National Park – Nature & Environment. Geology of Joshua Tree. Geologic Displays. The park encompasses some of the most …

Earthquake Faults: Mojave Desert Geology

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Geology: Earthquakes & Faults: California straddles the juncture of two great crustal plates: the Pacific plate and the North American plate.

Desert Sand Dune Geology

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Wind-induced Sand Movement. Photo of a dust devil on Soda Lake in the Mojave Preserve transporting sand. Individual sand grains are moved under the force of the …

Rock Formations – Mojave Desert

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Trona Pinnacles. This eerie, fantastic landscape is one of the most unique geological features in the California desert. These … Vasquez Rocks. These towering …

Desert Landforms & Surface Processes

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Historic weather data for the Eastern Mojave Desert is relatively scarce because there is no significant … Geologic History. The oldest rocks exposed in the …

Geology of Mono Lake

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This ongoing process has created the majestic contrast of a desert lake bordered by high mountain peaks. As the western floor of the Mono Basin slipped …

Geology Tour Road

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Map, photos and virtual tour of the Geology Tour Road in Joshua Tree National Park.

Introduction to the Arch Rock Geology tour

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Geology tour of White Tank Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park.

The Geology of the Mojave Desert

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The earliest rock, related to the metamorphic gneiss and schist at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, has little exposure in the Mojave, but can be seen at Saddle …

Magma On The Move: Geology of the Mojave Desert

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Along with the faulting, volcanic activity increased across the landscape. Igneous rock is derived from molten layers of magma beneath the Earth’s crust. Under …

Changing Climates and Ancient Lakes Mojave Desert

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Information was derived from articles within Enzel, Wells, and Lancaster (2003); [Geological Society of America Special Paper 268].

General Geologic History – Mojave Preserve – California Mojave

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Desert landscape and surface processes study, Mojave National Preserve.

Geology Road – Joshua Tree National Park

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Driving tour of Joshua Tree geology

Mitchell Caverns

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The Providence Mountains caves, like most limestone caves in other parts of the world, seem to have had a two-stage history. Most geologists who have studied …

Volcanic Rocks and Associated Landforms

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Cinder Cones and Lava Flows National Natural Landmark Area. Volcanic eruptions have occurred many times throughout the Mojave National Preserve in the geologic …

Badwater – Death Valley Geology

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Some of the minerals left behind by earlier Death Valley lakes dissolved in the shallow water, creating a briny solution. The Desert Returns. The wet times didn’t …

Geology Red Rock National Conservation Area

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For much of the past 600 million years, the land that is now Red Rock Canyon NCA was the bottom of a deep ocean basin and the western coast of North America was …

Mosaic Canyon – Death Valley Geology

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Smooth, polished marble walls enclose the trail as it follows the canyon’s sinuous curves. The canyon follows faults that formed when the rocky crust of the …

Educational Gold

I suppose everyone has heard the story I am about to tell you and if you aren’t part of everyone then you will be after you read this because you will have heard the story I am going to tell.

One fine and sunny summer morning in the late 1950s/early 60s, there was a road crew patching the asphalt on a lonely stretch of desert highway. I am not sure of which highway and I pretty much don’t care because this could have happened just about anywhere in the Mojave. Anyway, these guys are out there working away and down this empty highway rode this big, old, dark blue Buick driven by a somewhat elderly lady with another lady riding as a passenger. They slowed and stopped when they got to the road crew.

“Excuse me, sir?” the driver asked.

“Yes? How can I help you?” the signalman replied.

“My name is Betty and this is my friend, Betty–You can call her, ‘other’ Betty. We are school teachers from Indiana on vacation. We noticed these mines all along the mountains and were thinking how nice it would be to have a gold nugget to show our students. Would you tell us where we could get one?”

The road crew; the signalman, the man with the shovel, the man supervising the man with the shovel, and the supervisor of the man supervising the man with the shovel had all gathered next to the car. They were all smiling–It just wasn’t that easy.

Garlock – 1896 — Gold Gamble

“Well, did you see those piles of gravel next to the mines?” the supervisor asked. “Well, those are tailings,” he continued.

“Yeah,” you can find gold in there,” the shovel operator said with a chuckle.

“Thank you!” said Betty.

“Yes. Thank you,” chimed in ‘other’ Betty.

With that, Betty turned the car around and they disappeared in the heat waves in the distance.

The road crew had a good laugh.

It was only about 15 minutes later the Buick come tooling back down the road. It slowed and then stopped at the road crew.

“We found a piece! Thank you kindly!” Betty hollered.

‘Other’ Betty held out her hand and a half-inch thick chunk of gold covered the palm of her hand. Now, ‘Other’ Betty was a large woman with the hands of a truck driver and the nugget she held was damn big. The road crew was aghast at their stupid joke gone awry and they passed the rest of the day in embarrassed silence. The merry school teachers pleased that they had an authentic piece of gold to show their students, drove on to Bakersfield because Bakersfield seems to be where everyone that finds gold goes.

— end —

Room 8

The Mystery of Room 8 . . .

Room 8 – Kelso Depot

The waitresses of Kelso Depot were disappearing from their quarters in Room 8. One by one, during the dark of night, these young ladies would vanish without a trace or clue as to whatever may have happened to these delicate, polite, and refined maidens.

Upper floor on the left; Room 8

Many felt it was a curse, that possibly the Kelso Depot was built on sacred ground, but there was never a shred of proof that there was either a graveyard or spell over this piece of the desert country.

New girls and fresh waitresses would be brought in to fill the void left by these temporal spirits who would remain employed by the Union Pacific until their inevitable disappearance.

Go to the light . . .

This went on long enough that a definite pattern was observed, and the mystery was solved:

The single women who worked here would become so lonely during their time that they would escape in the dark of night with the first gentleman who would elope with her and take her out of the desert.

At least, that’s what I heard happened.

Kelso Depot

Kelso, California

Mojave National Preserve

Union Pacific Railroad

The Stoddard Boys

Of all the brother acts operating in and around San Bernardino County during the Mormon period, Few accomplished more for the ultimate benefit of the area than the Stoddard boys, Arvin and Sheldon.

Neither cut an imposing figure. Arvin, the quiet one, was only 5’5″ tall and weighed 135 pounds soaking wet, while Sheldon wasn’t much larger.  But what they lacked in height, they more than made up in spirit.

Arvin, however,   had an imposing ally in his wife Caroline. She was 6 feet tall and weighed well over 200 pounds —  a formidable Amazon and an extremely vocal one too. One is tempted to ask if she carried him across the threshold on their wedding night.

She became Arvin’s mouthpiece and  did not hesitate to make her opinions known, particularly when the chips were down. As their grandson, R. Jackson Stoddard  wrote in the March 1970 issue of the LA Westerners Branding Iron, “For although she followed the will of her husband, in many cases the will of her husband was truly only a reflection of her own wants and desires.”

Stoddard Mountain

Today, a stretch of the Mojave Desert between Victorville and Daggett is blanketed with sites bearing the Stoddard’s names. They include the Stoddard Mountains, Stoddard Hills, Stoddard gulch, Stoddard Valley, Stoddard Well and Stoddard Wells Road —  all  directly attributable  to Arvin’s work in the area during the 1850s and 60s.

Flag of the Mormon Battailion (note spelling)

There were four Stoddard Brothers at the beginning; Rufus, Albert, Arvin and Sheldon, who were all born in Canada. When their father died in 1838, mother Jane gathered them all up and crossed the United States border, first to Ohio in then to Warsaw, Illinois, where she became hooked on the Mormon religion. When the church made it’s great trek to Salt Lake City in 1847, she and her boys were in the initial contingent.

Rufus was the first of the boys to reach California, arriving in San Diego as a member of the Mormon Battalion. After his group was disbanded in Los Angeles, he remained in the area for almost a year before he rejoining his family at Salt Lake City in 1849.

Sheldon was the next to go. Leaving Salt Lake in 1848, along with  30 other men found for the placer diggings near hang town, they traveled as far as Mountain Meadows with a larger company who hired Capt. Jefferson Hunt to guide them to Los Angeles over the Old Spanish Trail.

At the Meadows they left Hunt’s party and turned west to take what they thought was a shortcut to the gold fields and for the next 17 days blindly followed a false trail without a guide, compass or map to go by.

On the 18th day, hopelessly lost in facing death without water their lives were spared when a sudden rain squall drenched the area.   As Sheldon later wrote, “We caught the water by spreading out our rubber blankets on the ground and drank it with a spoon.”

They then turned east on the Muddy River, followed at South until they fortunately encountered Capt. Hunt’s company again and accompanied it up the Mojave River, through Cajon Pass and down to the Chino Ranch.

Crowder Canyon – Old Spanish Trail

Tragically enough, on the same trip another group of would-be minors left Hunt’s command at Provo, Utah, insisting they also knew a shorter route to the gold fields, only to blunder into Death Valley, where five died before the survivors made it to Los Angeles.

Death Valley

From Chino the party went on to Mariposa, where they broke up to mine, while Stoddard ran a trading post in nearby Carson Valley  for a few months before returning to Salt Lake with a herd of horses and mules.

in March 1851 Sheldon married Jane Hunt, daughter of Capt. Hunt, and the following month they accompanied the first group of Mormon colonizers to the San Bernardino Valley, making temporary camp at Sycamore Grove.

After the Mormons purchased the San Bernardino Rancho that September, and moved down into the valley, Sheldon built the first  log cabin in the settlement on First Street,, west of I Street. His cabin was later moved to and made part of the Westside of this stockade constructed on the present courthouse site as protection against hostile Indians.

For the next 14 years Sheldon Stoddard was engaged in freighting and carrying mail between San Bernardino and Salt Lake City, crossing the Mojave 24 times in all. In 1865 he made one trip to Nevada in Montana with a mule team which covered  over 1300 miles, and took six months to complete.

Arvin Stoddard and his wife also came to San Bernardino with the first Mormon train and lived in the stockade for three years before receiving an urgent message from Mormon leader Brigham Young, authorizing him to investigate a gold strike in the Calico Hills to see if he could ” obtain as much gold as possible to help finance the founding and furtherance of the faith,”  keeping only enough to live on during the venture.

Calico Hills

Arvin and Caroline,  ardent church devotees, packed their wagon and with their poor young children in tow, headed for the hills without hesitation.

Mojave River at Afton Canyon

But before looking for gold, Arvin searched for water to raise crops to feed his family and stock and to flush through sluice boxes used to separate flakes of gold from the desert sand.

One of his more successful wells, known as Stoddard Well, is still flowing today and besides furnishing the family with ample water, also provided an impetus for others to break out a new road on almost a straight line from Lane’s Crossing,  near today’s Oro Grande, to Fish Ponds Station between present-day Barstow and Daggett, thereby saving many miles compared with the old route, which followed the westward band of the Mojave River.

Although it took him almost 8 years of prospecting, Arvin finally struck a rich claim and extracted a sum that Caroline estimated at  $60,000   before calling it quits and lighting out for Salt Lake City to hand to Brigham Young.

But before they reach the Mormon Temple, they were held up by Indians and robbed of all their hard-earned loot, except for a few thousand dollars hidden in Caroline’s underwear.

As her grandson related, “The Indians were neither red nor brown.  they were more white than any Indian she (Caroline)  had ever seen.”  Caroline deduced they were renegade Mormons, acting on behalf of the church, and although her suspicions were never resolved, her once benevolent attitude toward the Mormon hierarchy changed overnight and led to her eventual break with the church.

In 1869 the Arvin Stoddards move to Milford, Utah, where they build a hotel called, naturally, “The  Stoddard House,”  where they lived until Caroline died in 1904.

Sheldon Stoddard remained in San Bernardino for the rest of his life, Rev. and honored by all who knew him for his contributions to the county and state.

Blue Cut – Cajon Pass

After serving as president of the pioneer society, he spent his final years surrounded by old friends like John Brown and Billy Holcomb. They camped and fished together in their mountain retreats and dedicated monuments to the pioneers in Cajon Pass.  he was active up to the day of his death in 1919 at the age of 89.


Heritage Tales 1988
by Fred Holladay
published by the City of San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society