Pomona College Magazine
Volume 41. No. 1.
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Go for a walk on the San Andreas Fault.

California is famous for its earthquakes, and chances are good a student will experience a tiny (or not-so-tiny) temblor at least once during four years on campus. But why stop there? Go see the granddaddy of earthquake fault lines—the world-famous San Andreas Fault.

This 800-mile-long break in the Earth’s crust is responsible for the state’s most devastating earthquakes, including the 1906 San Francisco quake that killed about 3,000 people and, with the subsequent fire, nearly leveled the city. The San Andreas Fault is formed by the intersection of two crustal plates—the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. The Pacific Plate has been moving northwest in relation to the North American Plate for more than 30 million years. Movement along the fault causes several thousand earthquakes each year, although most are too small to be noticed, and has created some striking geological formations.

Would-be fault-finders can sign on for a tour of the fault by automobile or aircraft in Palm Springs, about 80 miles from Claremont. The fault can be subtle, and most first-time visitors would benefit from a guide, but those who prefer to strike out on their own might want to hike into the Mecca Hills in the eastern Coachella Valley near Indio. There, movement along the fault has created numerous multihued cliffs, colorful rock surfaces and vivid patterns in hues of rose, pink, red, purple and green, making it one of the most unusual geological sites of its kind in the world.
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