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Active tectonics of the northern Mojave Desert: The 2017 Desert Symposium field trip road log

June 30, 2017

The 2017 Desert Symposium field trip will highlight recent work by the U.S. Geological Survey geologists and geophysicists, who have been mapping young sediment and geomorphology associated with active tectonic features in the least well-known part of the eastern California Shear Zone (ECSZ). This area, stretching from Barstow eastward in a giant arc to end near the Granite Mountains on the south and the Avawatz Mountains on the north (Fig. 1-1), encompasses the two major structural components of the ECSZ—east-striking sinistral faults and northwest-striking dextral faults—as well as reverseoblique and normal-oblique faults that are associated with topographic highs and sags, respectively. In addition, folds and stepovers (both restraining stepovers that form pop-up structures and releasing stepovers that create narrow basins) have been identified.

The ECSZ is a segment in the ‘soft’ distributed deformation of the North American plate east of the San Andreas fault (Fig. 1-1), where it takes up approximately 20-25% of plate motion in a broad zone of right-lateral shear (Sauber et al., 1994) The ECSZ (sensu strictu) begins in the Joshua Tree area and passes north through the Mojave Desert, past the Owens Valley-to-Death Valley swath and northward, where it is termed the Walker Lane. It has been defined as the locus of active faulting (Dokka and Travis, 1990), but when the full history from about 10 Ma forward is considered, it lies in a broader zone of right shear that passes westward in the Mojave Desert to the San Andreas fault (Mojave strike-slip province of Miller and Yount, 2002) and passes eastward to the Nevada state line or beyond (Miller, this volume).

We will visit several accessible highlights for newly studied faults, signs of young deformation, and packages of syntectonic sediments. These pieces of a complex active tectonic puzzle have yielded some answers to longstanding questions such as:

  • How is fault slip transfer in this area accommodated between northwest-striking dextral faults and eaststriking sinistral faults?
  • How is active deformation on the Ludlow fault transferred northward, presumably to connect to the southern Death Valley fault zone?
  • When were faults in this area of the central Mojave Desert initiated?
  • Are faults in this area more or less active than faults in the ECSZ to the west?
  • What is the role of NNW-striking faults and when did they form?
  • How has fault slip changed over time? Locations and fault names are provided in figure 1-2. Important turns and locations are identified with locations in the projection: UTM, zone 11; datum NAD 83: (578530 3917335).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Active tectonics of the northern Mojave Desert: The 2017 Desert Symposium field trip road log
Authors David M. Miller, R.E. Reynolds, Geoffrey Phelps, Jeffrey S. Honke, Andrew J. Cyr, David C. Buesch, Kevin M. Schmidt, G. Losson
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70194788
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center