|Peak||San Gorgonio Mountain|
|Elevation||11,503 ft (3,506 m)|
|Length||300 mi (480 km)|
|Parent range||Pacific Coast Ranges|
The Transverse Ranges are a group of mountain ranges of southern California, in the Pacific Coast Ranges physiographic region in North America. The Transverse Ranges begin at the southern end of the California Coast Ranges and lie between Santa Barbara and San Diego counties. They derive the name Transverse Ranges due to their east–west orientation, making them transverse to the general north–south orientation of most of California's coastal mountains.
Most of the Transverse Ranges are bounded to the north and east by the San Andreas Fault, which separates the ranges from the California Coast Ranges and the Peninsular Ranges. Notable passes along the fault include Tejon Pass, Cajon Pass, and San Gorgonio Pass. Components of Transverse Ranges to the north of the fault include the Tehachapi Mountains and the San Bernardino Mountains. The western and southern boundaries are generally acknowledged to be the Pacific Ocean and various alluvial valleys and basins.
The mountains are notable for being steep and difficult to traverse across. On its northern end, there are few passes that are sufficiently low or wide enough to accommodate significant volumes of traffic. This has resulted in situations where major cities are linked to the rest of the state by relatively few number of roads; for example, the vast majority of traffic between the Central Valley and the Los Angeles area is routed through Tejon Pass. This results in significant traffic issues throughout Southern California when a pass has to be shut down due to heavy snow or construction. Occasionally, such as Santa Barbara during the 2005 La Conchita landslide, major cities may be cut off from timely road access to the rest of Southern California.
Major peaks of the the Transverse Ranges with at least 500 feet (150 m) of prominence, listed by height:
- Mount San Gorgonio, 11,499 feet (3,505 m), San Bernardino Mountains.
- San Bernardino Peak, 10,649 feet (3,246 m), San Bernardino Mountains.
- Mount San Antonio (Old Baldy), 10,064 feet (3,068 m), San Gabriel Mountains.
- Mount Baden-Powell, 9,407 feet (2,867 m), San Gabriel Mountains.
- Galena Peak, 9,324 feet (2,842 m), San Bernardino Mountains.
- Cucamonga Peak, 8,862 feet (2,701 m), San Gabriel Mountains.
- Mount Pinos, 8,847 feet (2,697 m) San Emigdio Mountains.
- Frazier Mountain, 8,017 feet (2,444 m) San Emigdio Mountains.
- Reyes Peak, 7,510 feet (2,290 m), San Emigdio Mountains.
- Big Pine Mountain, 6,820 feet (2,080 m), San Rafael Mountains.
The Transverse ranges run predominantly east–west, while the other coast ranges tend north–south, including the Central Coast Ranges to the north and the Peninsular Ranges to the south. They begin at Point Conception in Santa Barbara County, and include the Santa Ynez Mountains that run parallel to the coast behind Santa Barbara. Also in Santa Barbara County, they include the San Rafael Mountains and the Sierra Madre Mountains, both of which extend approximately to the Ventura County line. The Transverse Ranges also include the Topatopa Mountains and the Santa Susana Mountains of Ventura County and Los Angeles County, the Simi Hills, the Santa Monica Mountains that run along the Pacific coast behind Malibu, and whose eastern portion are known as the Hollywood Hills, and the Chalk Hills.
The Ranges include the steep San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles, the San Rafael Hills, Puente Hills, San Jose Hills, and Chino Hills, and the San Bernardino Mountains. To the north of the Transverse ranges are the Central Coast Ranges, The Central Valley, and the Tehachapi Mountains, which separate the Central Valley from the Mojave Desert to the east, and link the Transverse ranges to the Sierra Nevada. The Mojave Desert and California's low desert, including the Coachella Valley, are at the eastern end of the ranges. The northern Channel Islands of California are also part of the Transverse Ranges; San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands are a westward extension of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Mountain ranges with peaks exceeding 4,500 feet (1,400 m), listed west to east, include:
- Santa Ynez Mountains
- San Rafael Mountains
- Topatopa Mountains
- San Emigdio Mountains
- Tehachapi Mountains
- Sierra Pelona Mountains
- San Gabriel Mountains
- San Bernardino Mountains
- Little San Bernardino Mountains
Examples of smaller mountain and hill ranges include:
- Santa Monica Mountains
- Santa Susana Mountains
- Simi Hills
- Chalk Hills
- San Rafael Hills
- Puente Hills
- San Jose Hills
- Shandin Hills
The Transverse Ranges represent a complex of tectonic forces and faulting stemming from the interaction of the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate along the San Andreas Fault system. Their orientation along an east–west axis as opposed to the general southeast-northwest trend of most California ranges results from a pronounced step in the San Andreas Fault, the cause of which is a subject of intensive ongoing study. The San Andreas Fault is a dextral strike-slip fault with a right step, causing the mountains. Their elevation is somewhat better understood as a consequence of this step. The crust atop the Pacific Plate south of the ranges does not easily make the turn westward as the entire plate moves northwestward, forcing pieces of the crust to compress and lift.
The crust which comprises the Transverse Ranges is part of what is known as the Salinian Block, originally a piece of the North American Plate which was broken off what is now northwestern Mexico as the Gulf of California rifted open.
Physiographically, the Tranverse Ranges are a distinct physiographic section of the larger Pacific Border province, which in turn is part of the larger Pacific Mountain System. They exhibit extreme differences in geologic age and composition, varying from sedimentary rocks in the western Santa Ynez and Santa Monica mountains to primarily granitic and metamorphic rock in the eastern regions, where they terminate abruptly in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains.
There are a number of important freeways that cross the Transverse Ranges, like (from west to east) US-101, I-5 at Tejon Pass, SR 14 at Soledad Pass, and I-15 at Cajon Pass. These highways link Southern California with places to the north and northeast like San Francisco and Las Vegas, respectively. With the exception of several high passes on less-traveled SR 33, SR 2, SR 330. SR 18 and SR 38, none of these passes are at high elevations, with Cajon Pass being at a modest 4,190 ft (1,277 m) above mean sea level; this means that snow is less of a factor here than in the moderate to high mountain passes to the north like Donner Pass. Still sometimes, heavy snowfall can snarl traffic on Tejon and Cajon Pass, the higher two of the three freeway passes. I-5 and I-15 commonly experience heavy traffic over their mountainous route across these mountains.
The plant place of the Transverse ranges include coastal sage scrub, oak woodland and savanna, and pinyon-juniper woodland at lower elevations, and yellow pine forest, Lodgepole Pine forest, and subalpine forest at higher elevations. The Angeles and Los Padres National Forests cover portions of the Transverse ranges. The ranges are part of the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion, but the eastern points of the range touch two desert regions, the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert section of the Sonoran Desert. The Carrizo Plain adjoins the northern edge of the Transverse Range.
Chaparral is a common feature of the Transverse Ranges. Common plant associates in chaparral, especially in the transition between coastal chaparral and coastal sage scrub, include California sagebrush and Toyon, the latter shrub having its southern distribution limit defined by the Transverse Ranges.
A number of densely populated coastal plains and interior valleys lie between the mountain ranges, including the Oxnard Plain of coastal Ventura County, the Santa Clarita Valley north of Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, which is mostly included in the City of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Basin, which includes the portion of Los Angeles County south of the Santa Monica Mountains and most of Orange County, and the Inland Empire basin, which includes the cities of San Bernardino and Riverside, lie between the Transverse Ranges and the Peninsular Ranges to the south.
- Ingram, Scott (2002). California: The Golden State. Gareth Stevens. p. 21. ISBN 0-8368-5282-6.
- "California's Coastal Mountains". California Coastal Commission. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
- "Physiographic divisions of the conterminous U. S.". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2007-12-06.
- Schoenherr, Allan A. (1992). A Natural History of California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
- C. Michael Hogan, (2008) Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), GlobalTwitcher, ed. N. Stromberg
- U.S. Geological Survey. (1987). Recent reverse faulting in the Transverse Ranges, California [U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1339]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
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