Since we live on the fault line, we have a front row seat when the next big earthquake hits.
Of course, the scenery near the San Andreas Fault makes us forget we live along a dangerous and potentially deadly quake zone.
But the steep canyons, gorges, and endless carved hillsides would not have been here if it wasn’t for some violent shaking miles below the earth’s surface, millions of years ago.
Earthquakes happen because of the way the earth’s crust is broken up into a series of plates.
Those plates have been moving very slowly over the earth’s surface for millions of years.
Two of the biggest — the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate — meet right along the San Andreas Fault and right in the middle of the Coachella Valley.
Mark Farley owns a company that takes visitors on tours of the San Andreas Fault which is ground zero for some very powerful and destructive earthquakes.
On the tour, they learn that a fault is a continuous, narrow break in the earth.
And under certain conditions, it can cause an earthquake.
Farley explains that the Pacific Plate is moving northwest while the North American Plate is moving southeast, so they’re moving past each other.
The rock gets stuck as it’s passing each other and it builds up over time, Farley says.
So when a build up of that rock causes friction, an earthquake happens.
The San Andreas Fault starts in Northern California then winds all the way down to the Coachella Valley.
You may have passed right over it especially if you’ve ever driven on the Interstate 10 freeway, just east of Indio.
You can’t see it because the fault is 10 to 20 miles below the earth’s surface. But if you look closely, you can see clear signs that it is down there.
It is stunningly beautiful along the fault line, but that beauty comes at a price.
Those who’ve experienced a major earthquake know exactly what that means and wonder just how soon we’ll all be feeling the next “big one”.