Sutter Buttes, California

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
First-time Visitors: Please visit Site Map and Disclaimer. Use "Back" to return here.


Sutter Buttes, CAThe Sutter (or Marysville) Buttes rise with astonishing suddenness out of the Sacramento Valley. They are the only significant outcrops in the entire valley.
Sutter Buttes, CAThe Buttes are not just unique, they are remarkably steep. They consist of rhyolites and  andesites about 1.5 million years old.

Given that some of the large Cascade Range stratovolcanoes are over a million years old, it is clear these were never in the same class, in size or longevity. They were probably more like the Mono Craters, a cluster of small and relatively short-lived vents.

Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CAMost of the outcrops themselves are on private land and not accessible without permission. However, road cuts and boulders along the public roads give a fairly clear picture of the geology.

Recently, large tracts of private land were acquired and hopefully this area will become a State park.

Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA

Fremont Was Here

Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CA"In commemoration of Major General John C. Fremont, United States Army and his expedition encamped in the Sutter Buttes in this vicinity May 30, 1846 to June 8, 1846 while on a march from Klamath Lake to Sonoma where he represented the United States government during the Bear Flag Uprising which resulted in the acquisition of California from Mexico."

For those not familiar with California history, the Bear Flag Uprising was a coup by American settlers during the Mexican War that proclaimed California a (briefly) independent republic. The flag became the present California state flag. The bear on the flag is a grizzly bear, which ironically became extinct in California shortly after 1900.

The Southern Buttes

Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CAStone walls were once numerous here, a startling sight since stone walls are not common in California.

Sutter Buttes, CA

The panorama above shows the resistant volcanic necks at right and the outward-dipping apron of lahars, flows, and pyroclastic debris at left.

The Southwestern Buttes

Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CARock pile of volcanic boulders.

Sutter Buttes, CA

The panorama above shows the resistant volcanic necks in the distance flanked on both sides by their outward-dipping apron of lahars, flows, and pyroclastic debris.

The Western Buttes

Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CABelow: views of the flat Sacramento River valley looking west.
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA

The Northwestern Buttes

Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CAA number of properties in this area make use of the abundant volcanic boulders for stone walls.

Rock Units of the Buttes

Cretaceous

Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASmall windows of Cretaceous sandstone occur in the Buttes (above)

Left: doming of the underlying sedimentary units by the volcanic uplift created natural gas traps and natural gas wells are located around the buttes. One can be seen at lower left of the photo.

Tertiary

Sutter Buttes, CATertiary gravels occur in places on top of the Cretaceous.
Sutter Buttes, CAThe gravel here is clearly not derived from the local lithology. The sandy unit underlying the gravel (below) may be Tertiary or may be Cretaceous in part.
Sutter Buttes, CA Sutter Buttes, CA

Pleistocene Volcanic Rocks

Sutter Buttes, CAA lahar on the southwestern flank of the buttes 
Sutter Buttes, CALeft and below: road cuts in the volcaniclastic apron of the buttes. Road cuts like these are best seen along the western side of the buttes.
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CALeft and below: roadside boulders allow frequent opportunities to sample the volcanic rocks, which seem to be uniformly coarse porphyritic rhyolites.
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA
Sutter Buttes, CASutter Buttes, CA

Return to Virtual Field Trips Index
Return to Professor Dutch's Home Page

Created 7 April 2003, Last Update 01 July 2012

Not an official UW Green Bay site