CAUTION: Post Storm Damage to Coastal Trail
The Presidio Coastal Trail segment just north of the Pacific Overlook and adjacent to Lincoln Blvd remains CLOSED indefinitely. We have posted signage to alert bicyclists and hikers and with information for safe trail alternatives. More »
Will Elder, NPS
Serpentinite is a rare rock type that is most often developed in subduction zones, where one tectonic plate is subducted under another. The serpentinite at the Presidio is probably made from rock scraped off the bottom of ocean crust that is found east of the subduction zone. These deep ocean crust and upper mantle rocks were then altered by pressure and hot fluids that circulated through them in the subduction zone and on their way to the surface. They are now at the Earth's surface because the region has experienced uplift after subduction ceased, and because these altered rocks are now lighter than surrounding rocks and are therefore rising to the surface.
Since it is derived from mantle material, the chemistry of serpentinite is unlike that of most rocks in the earth's crust. Serpentinite rock is mostly composed of a mineral called serpentine. This mineral is low in potassium and calcium, both of which are plant nutrients, and also contains high levels of potentially toxic elements such as magnesium, chromium, and nickel. Plants that live on serpentinite are adapted to survive in these unusual chemical conditions.
Did You Know?
Major Jonathan Letterman--after whom the hospital at the Presidio was renamed in 1911--was the medical director of the Army of the Potomac. A founding father of military medicine, Letterman organized forward first-aid stations, mobile field hospitals, and ambulance services during the Civil War.