fault scarp
The massive earthquake that created this 20 foot tall fault scarp near Badwater happened about 2000 years ago.
Nature and Science
Figure 1. Diagram showing types of movement along major fault systems in Death Valley.

Faulting is the one of the main reasons Death Valley exists. Movement along faults allow the mountains to rise and the valleys to sink. Death Valley is located in the southwestern portion of the Basin and Range geomorphic province. The Basin and Range province has a long and active geologic history, including faulting and regional tectonic movement. Fault-bounded uplifted ranges are separated by down-dropped sedimentary basins.

Most faulting that is presently occurring within Death Valley is strike-slip (transverse) with a component of normal movement (see Figure 1). With faulting comes the possibility of seismic activity, more commonly known as earthquakes. Most earthquakes that occur today are very small and cause no damage to structures or the ground surface. However, at some point in the future (no one knows how long into the future), the major fault systems in Death Valley are almost sure to create a significant seismic event.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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