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Stone Quarries in the North San Francisco
Bay Counties (historical account as of 1949)

Excerpts from

Geology and Mineral Deposits of an Area North of San Francisco Bay,
California: Vacaville, Antioch, Mount Vaca, Carquinez,
Mare Island,Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Petaluma,
and Point Reyes Quadrangles, Bulletin 149

By Charles E. Weaver, California State Division of Mines,September 1949.

(Used with permission, California Department of Conservation, California Geological Survey.)

"Rock suitable for road metal, aggregate, and building stone underlies a large part of the area. By far the greater part of the road metal and aggregate has come from Pliocene volcanics, although the diabase, basalt, and chert associated with the Franciscan group provide a reserve as yet largely untapped. An additional source is the gravel of certain streams which drain areas of volcanic or Franciscan rocks.

Operating Quarries

"Aggregate is currently produced from non-alluvial material by the Marin Gravel Company, Point Reyes Station; Hein Brothers Basalt Rock Company, Petaluma; the Basalt Rock Company and Juarez Quarry, Napa; Cordelia Quarry, Cordelia; and Parish Brothers north of Benicia. The following are now producing aggregate or road metal from stream gravel: Onsrud Construction Company and J. C. Spaletta, Santa Rosa Creek; L. J. Wrobel, C. E. Palmer, and J. P. Serres, Sonoma Creek; H. W. and T. F. McGill, Conn Creek; W. M. Roderick, Napa River; and H. V. Smith, Sulphur Creek. Colored building stone and 'flagstones' are obtained from the following quarries in volcanic rocks near Glen Ellen: Valley of the Moon, Gerberding, Candy Rock or Nuns Canyon, Johnson, Rainbow, and Gordenker.

"The stone industry has undergone revolutionary change since the latter part of the nineteenth century, yet stone has been and remains one of the most important mineral assets in Napa and Sonoma Counties. When city streets were surfaced with paving blocks, quarries in the area thrived and sent blocks to San Francisco, San Jose, and even Stockton. Between 1900 and 1915, with increasing production costs and the need for smoother street surfaces, the paving block industry declined in importance. Of the large number of block quarries, the few that survived are now large producers of crushed rock. These also supply aggregate used in reinforced concrete, a material which has rendered dimension stone almost obsolete. Forty years ago sandstone, hardened tuff, or banded rhyolite was invariably used in the construction of culverts, retaining walls, farm buildings, and even some of the larger bridges and buildings in the area; but today the building stone industry survives only at the previously mentioned quarries near Glen Ellen."

Geologic Distribution

Crushed Rock:

"Crushed rock suitable for aggregate is widely distributed. The volcanics on the east side of the Howell Mountains are largely hard, massive, and dark colored. On both sides of Sonoma and Kenwood Valleys fine-grained andesites, some vesicular, are interbedded with tuffs. The Coutts Brothers, Hutchison Ranch, and Titania quarries, and many others too numerous to mention operated in this area.* Outliers of the southwest extension of the Sonoma andesite that rest upon the Franciscan west of Petaluma provide excellent stone for blocks and crushed rock. On both sides of Napa Valley the rock, which is of especially good quality has been quarried whenever there was a demand for it. Near Point Reyes Station a chert lens in the Franciscan is a source of crushed gravel.

(* Page 105 footnote 92: California State Mining Bureau, Sonoma County: California Min. Bur. Rept. 14, pp. 351-366, 1915.)

Stream Gravel:

(The section will not be included.)

Road Metal:

"More numerous in this area than any other type of operation are pits which supply road metal. Many are operated on a royalty basis by county highway departments, some by contractors; sell material to private customers. They may be large or small, opened for one job and abandoned, or operated intermittently over a period of many years whenever roads are rebuilt in the vicinity.

"A wide variety of materials has been used because availability is the primary consideration. Pits have been opened in the Novato conglomerate near Black Point, in the Knoxville shale and breccia near Sulphur Springs Mountain, and the Wolfskill sandstone west of Pittsburg. On Point Reyes the quartz diorite has been a source; elsewhere in Marin County chert and diabase in the Franciscan group have been employed on a small scale. River gravel and unscreened rock from crushing plants have also been used.

"The most widely used material is the interbedded lava, tuff, and breccia of the Sonoma volcanics. The Meachim and Stony Point pits northwest of Petaluma, the Zameroni, O'Connor, and Onsrud pits near Santa Rosa, the Potter pit west of Napa, the Williams pit in Bennett Valley, and the Joulie pit east of Glen Ellen are all in this type of material. In these variable amounts of lava are interbedded with the tuff, and blasting is occasionally required at most pits. Usually crushing is not necessary, and often power shovels or scrapers load directly into trucks.

Building Stone:

"Hard interbedded sandstone from the Knoxville and Chico formations have been quarried as building stone. They are exposed in the hills on both sides of Suisun and Wooden Valleys and on the eastern slopes of the Vaca Mountains. Sandstone beds range from 2 to 30 feet in thickness, are light grayish brown in color, fine grained, and usually of uniform texture and moderate strength. The massive sandstones of the Franciscan group are usually so badly crushed and weathered that they are not suitable for building purposes. Sandstones of the Martinez, Domengine, and Markley formations have low crushing strengths.

"The hardened tuffs and banded rhyolites which occur on both sides of the Miyakma Mountains have been used for local construction. Their hardness, strength, and texture vary, but carefully selected material can be quarried in large uniform blocks. This type of rock has been used in building the northern bridge over Napa River north of the city of Napa and also the bridge over Milliken Creek. The quarrying of banded rhyolite for 'flagstones' and colored building stones near Glen Ellen began about 1937.


"Several small deposits of travertine occur at Tolenas Springs about 4 miles north of Suisun in the Vaca Mountains. These are spring deposits formed by precipitation of the carbonate-bearing water, probably when the springs were more active than now. Similar patches of travertine are found about 3 miles north of the springs near the crest of the Vaca Mountains and also in the hills 6 miles northeast of Suisun on property formerly owned by the Pacific Portland Cement Company. Many years ago beautifully banded pieces of travertine were obtained both here and at Tolenas Springs, but it was impossible to secure large enough blocks for a profitable operation." *

(* Page 106, footnote 93: Watts, W. L., Solano County: California Min. Bur. Rept. 10, p. 668, 1890.)

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