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Active faulting in the Walker Lane

Steven G. Wesnousky

Published June 16, 2005, SCEC Contribution #10127

Deformation across the San Andreas and Walker Lane fault systems accounts for most relative Pacific–North American transform plate motion. The Walker Lane is composed of discontinuous sets of right‐slip faults that are located to the east and strike approximately parallel to the San Andreas fault system. Mapping of active faults in the central Walker Lane shows that right‐lateral shear is locally accommodated by rotation of crustal blocks bounded by steep‐dipping east striking left‐slip faults. The left slip and clockwise rotation of crustal blocks bounded by the east striking faults has produced major basins in the area, including Rattlesnake and Garfield flats; Teels, Columbus and Rhodes salt marshes; and Queen Valley. The Benton Springs and Petrified Springs faults are the major northwest striking structures currently accommodating transform motion in the central Walker Lane. Right‐lateral offsets of late Pleistocene surfaces along the two faults point to slip rates of at least 1 mm/yr. The northern limit of northwest trending strike‐slip faults in the central Walker Lane is abrupt and reflects transfer of strike‐slip to dip‐slip deformation in the western Basin and Range and transformation of right slip into rotation of crustal blocks to the north. The transfer of strike slip in the central Walker Lane to dip slip in the western Basin and Range correlates to a northward broadening of the modern strain field suggested by geodesy and appears to be a long‐lived feature of the deformation field. The complexity of faulting and apparent rotation of crustal blocks within the Walker Lane is consistent with the concept of a partially detached and elastic‐brittle crust that is being transported on a continuously deforming layer below. The regional pattern of faulting within the Walker Lane is more complex than observed along the San Andreas fault system to the west. The difference is attributed to the relatively less cumulative slip that has occurred across the Walker Lane and that oblique components of displacement are of opposite sense along the Walker Lane (extension) and San Andreas (contraction), respectively. Despite the gross differences in fault pattern, the Walker Lane and San Andreas also share similarities in deformation style, including clockwise rotations of crustal blocks leading to development of structural basins and the partitioning of oblique components of slip onto subparallel strike‐slip and dip‐slip faults.

Wesnousky, S. G. (2005). Active faulting in the Walker Lane. Tectonics, 24(3), n/a-n/a. doi: 10.1029/2004TC001645.