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Southern Central Region

Split Cinder Cone

SC3. Location/Access:
(35o 56.399’N, 116o 49.950’W) Split Cinder Cone is a low, reddish hill located 3.5 miles northwest of Ashford Mill and 1.7 miles west of the main paved road in southern Death Valley. It requires a very short hike south from the West Side Road. There may be rare occasions in winter when the Amargosa River is flowing and thus cuts off the road. However, considering that it is not that far, one could walk in from the main highway.

Best Time: Anytime.

Geology: Split Cinder Cone composed of middle Pleistocene basalt that has been eroded. The fact that it has obviously been offset right-laterally several tens of feet by the Death Valley fault zone since its formation provides strong evidence that the nature of tectonic activity in Death Valley may be quite different now than in the Neogene. The Death Valley fault zone extends up the entire length of Death Valley and on north into the Fish Lake Valley of Nevada except for a pull-apart segment between Mormon Point and Furnace Creek. This is the best place in the southern part of the valley to see the fault. Features in the far north of Death Valley are much more numerous. Earthquake activity along the Death Valley fault zone is minor and sporadic. Earthquake activity along the extensional faults in Death Valley is virtually non-existent. Death Valley is a classic region of tectonic transtension. That is, some of the tectonic movement in the area is right-lateral and some is normal thus pulling apart Death Valley and the rest of region from Death Valley westward to the Sierra Nevada in a northwesterly direction. This whole area, the northern part of the Eastern California Shear Zone, probably accounts for 20% of the movement between the North American and Pacific plates (Oldow, 2005) See site FN1 for amounts of right lateral slip north of this location. Due to this site’s central location in center of Death Valley’s south end, this is a good place to view both the Panamint and Black Mountains from a distance and to get a sense of the “pull-apart” tectonic origin of Death Valley itself.

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