Relationships between sand input from rivers and the composition of sands from the beaches of Southern California*


  • *

    Contribution No. 360, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Southern California.


During the period from 1967 through 1972, a sampling programme was completed to determine the economic potential of heavy metals in the beach and river sands of the southern California coastal zone. These samples were employed to test the hypothesis that sand composition in a given beach cell is dominantly controlled by the provenance draining into that cell and is not strongly influenced by longshore leakage from upcurrent cells. Sample sets obtained before and after the exceptional flood of 1969 made it possible to compare the sediment supplied by normal river flow with that supplied by a major flood. Multivariate statistical analysis of the heavy mineral distribution of southern California beaches and rivers indicate that the sand composition of the two northern cells is controlled by the dominantly sedimentary Transverse Range provenance, whereas the composition of the three southern cells is controlled by the dioritic Peninsular Ranges. Some leakage occurs between the two northern cells around the Point Dume-Hueneme-Mugu Canyon Zone, whereas no important southward mixing occurs between cells around the Palos Verdes-Redondo Canyon Zone. Even though the Santa Clara River flows mostly through sedimentary terrains, samples from this river strongly reflect the granodioritic source present in its headlands. Although the basic sand composition within each cell persists during major flooding, leakage between cells may increase following flooding and the compositional packages present may show evidence of greater mixing.