Paleoenvironmental reconstruction of an active margin coast from the Pleistocene to the present: Examples from southwestern Oregon
This study illustrates geoarchaeological and paleoenvironmental approaches to the investigation of an active margin coastal setting and provides examples of how information gleaned through examination of the stratigraphic record can reveal depositional signatures that provide insights into the geomorphic and tectonic forces active within coastal river basins. Three case studies from the southern Oregon coast illustrate the complex relationship between tectonics and geomorphic processes along an active margin coast such as Oregon's Cascadia subduction zone. This work illustrates that the differential preservation of late Pleistocene-age terrestrial deposits in Oregon's coastal landscape, and the early cultural sites they may contain, is not random but can be closely related to larger tectonogeomorphic processes operating at local and regional scales.
Detailed subsurface investigation of one case study site, the lower Sixes River valley, reveals a complex history of depositional environment evolution in relation to geomorphic and tectonic forces. Litho- and biostratigraphic data sets are used to develop a depositional environment reconstruction for the lower Sixes River site through time. This reconstruction of the depositional environment from the late Pleistocene to the present indicates a transgressive evolution that differs from models of transgressive coastal facies and from other studied Northwest coast estuarine life histories. Factors such as eustatic sea level rise, regional and local tectonic alteration of the landscape, sediment supply, or valley morphology may have played roles in the creation and preservation of this atypical depositional sequence.
Litho- and biostratigraphic evidence of six Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes younger than 6200 cal yr BP is recorded in a long sediment core from the Sixes River valley. All six of these events correlate with events previously reported for the area by Kelsey et al. (2002). At least five additional plate boundary earthquakes lowered tidal marshes and freshwater wetlands prior to 6200 cal yr BP. The presence within the lower Sixes River valley of an intertidal environment capable of recording Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes dating to the late Pleistocene and early Holocene has not been found at any other location on the Northwest coast.