Late Quaternary Faulting Along the Death ValleyFurnace Creek Fault
System, California and Nevada
The Death ValleyFurnace Creek fault system, in California and Nevada, has a variety of impressive late Quaternary neotectonic features that record a long history of recurrent earthquake-induced faulting. Although no neotectonic features of unequivocal historical age are known, paleoseismic features from multiple late Quaternary events of surface faulting are well developed throughout the length of the system. Comparison of scarp heights to amount of horizontal offset of stream channels and the relationships of both scarps and channels to the ages of different geomorphic surfaces demonstrate that Quaternary faulting along the northwest-trending Furnace Creek fault zone is predominantly right lateral, whereas that along the north-trending Death Valley fault zone is predominantly normal. These observations are compatible with tectonic models of Death Valley as a northwest-trending pull-apart basin.
The largest late Quaternary scarps along the Furnace Creek fault zone, with vertical separation of late Pleistocene surfaces of as much as 64 m (meters), are in Fish Lake Valley. Despite the predominance of normal faulting along the Death Valley fault zone, vertical offset of late Pleistocene surfaces along the Death Valley fault zone apparently does not exceed about 15 m.
Evidence for four to six separate late Holocene faulting events along the Furnace Creek fault zone and three or more late Holocene events along the Death Valley fault zone are indicated by rupturing of Q1B (about 200-2,000 years old) geomorphic surfaces. Probably the youngest neotectonic feature observed along the Death ValleyFurnace Creek fault system, possibly historic in age, is vegetation lineaments in southernmost Fish Lake Valley. Near-historic faulting in Death Valley, within several kilometers south of Furnace Creek Ranch, is represented by (1) a 2,000-year-old lake shoreline that is cut by sinuous scarps, and (2) a system of young scarps with free-faceted faces (representing several faulting events) that cuts Q1B surfaces.
Last Updated: 24-Jul-2009