Sierra Madre Mountains (California)


Sierra Madre Mountains (California)

The Sierra Madre Mountains are a mountain range in northern Santa Barbara County, California, USA. They are a portion of the Transverse Ranges, which are themselves part of the Pacific Coast Ranges of western North America. The range trends from northwest to southeast, and is approximately twenty-five miles (40 km) long. High peaks in the range include MacPherson Peak (Convert|5747|ft|m|0), and the highest point in the range, Peak Mountain (Convert|5843|ft|m|0). To the southeast, the range merges with the San Rafael Mountains in a complex topography of unnamed ranges, the highest point of which is Big Pine Mountain (Convert|6820|ft|m|0|abbr=on|abbr=on|abbr=on), the highest point in Santa Barbara County. Snow falls on the highest peaks during the winter months.

The Sierra Madre Mountains are almost entirely within the Los Padres National Forest, and mark the northern boundary of the San Rafael Wilderness. The southeastern extent of the range is about twenty-five miles north of the city of Santa Barbara, and the northwestern extent of the range is about fifty miles north by northwest of the city.The predominant vegetation type on the mountains is chaparral; however oak woodlands occur in some areas, and some of the higher slopes support small areas of coniferous forest. The mountains are one of the most important habitat areas of the endangered California Condor.

Geologically, the mountains are almost entirely composed of sedimentary rocks of Tertiary age. Most of the rocks are Eocene marine sandstones and other sediments, and one region in the eastern portion of the range is made up of middle and early Miocene sediments. The mountain range is delineated on the south by the Nacimiento Fault, and on the north, by the South Cuyama and Ozena Faults. The Sierra Madre Mountains rise abruptly just south of the Cuyama Valley, which defines the northern boundary of Santa Barbara County.

The mountain range is almost entirely uninhabited, except for portions of the lower slopes to the north, which is developed for oil and gas production at the South Cuyama Oil Field. One difficult, single-lane dirt road follows the mountain crest; it often is closed after storms, and is normally only passable by four-wheel-drive vehicles or motorcycles.


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