Although no major seismic activity has been recorded during historic time along the Death ValleyFurnace Creek fault system, many youthful geomorphic features related to active faulting are present along this zone. Recent leveling experiments (Sylvester and Bies, 1986) suggest that aseismic creep may be as important as earthquakes in scarp development.
Late Pleistocene and Holocene faulting along the Furnace Creek fault zone is predominantly strike slip with a local, subordinate dip-slip component (table 3), which is possibly due to local changes in strike of the fault zone. The geomorphically sharpest fault-related features are in the Horse Thief Canyon area, although small fissures in a manmade playa near Oasis may represent historic displacement. Many sections of the Furnace Creek fault zone show evidence of multiple periods of faulting, although the number of inferred Holocene events appears to increase (to as many as four) southward along the zone.
Table 3. Summary of Quaternary faulting along the Furnace Creek fault
zone, California and Nevada
Fault displacement along the Death Valley fault zone is predominantly dip slip (table 4), with only a minor component of right slip observed locally. The contrasting styles of faulting between the Furnace Creek and Death Valley fault zones (predominantly strike slip along the former and dip slip along the latter) well supports the rift model for the formation of Death Valley first suggested by Burchfiel and Stewart (1966). In this model, right-lateral motion along the Furnace Creek fault zone and along a northwest-trending southern extension of the Death Valley fault zone created an intervening zone of tension in which the north-trending graben of Death Valley formed.
Table 4. Summary of Quaternary faulting along the Death
Valley fault zone, California
The youngest discrete faulting event along the Death Valley fault zone, possibly near historic in age, occurred in the Golden Canyon area, although evidence for multiple Holocene faulting events is better exposed along the southern part of the Death Valley fault zone.
Last Updated: 24-Jul-2009