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Evolution of Miocene normal and dextral faulting in the lower Colorado River region near Blythe, California, USA

August 25, 2023

The evolution of strain in nascent continental plate boundaries commonly involves distributed deformation and transitions between different styles of deformation as the plate boundary matures. Distributed NW-striking faults, many with km-scale right-lateral separation, are prevalent near Blythe, California, and have been variably interpreted to have accommodated either Middle Miocene NE-SW extension as normal faults or Late Miocene to Pliocene dextral shear as strike-slip faults. However, with poor timing and kinematic constraints, it is unclear how these faults relate to known domains of Neogene deformation and the evolution of the Pacific–North America plate boundary. We present kinematic data (n = 642 fault planes, n = 512 slickenlines) that demonstrate that these faults dominantly dip steeply northeast; ~96% of measured faults record normal, dextral, or oblique dextral-normal kinematics that likely reflect a gradational transition between normal and dextral oblique kinematic regimes. We constrain fault timing with 11.7 Ma and 7.0 Ma 40Ar/39Ar dates of rocks cut by faults, and laser ablation–inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry U-Pb dating of calcite mineralized during oblique dextral faulting that demonstrates fault slip at ca. 10–7 Ma and perhaps as late as ca. 4 Ma. This Late Miocene dextral oblique faulting is best compatible with a documented regional transition from Early to Middle Miocene NE-directed extension during detachment fault slip to subsequent NW-directed dextral shear. We estimate 11–38 km of cumulative dextral slip occurred across a 50-km-wide zone from the Palen to Riverside mountains, including up to 20 km of newly documented dextral shear that may partly alleviate the regional discrepancy of cumulative dextral shear along this part of the Late Miocene Pacific–North America plate boundary.

Publication Year 2023
Title Evolution of Miocene normal and dextral faulting in the lower Colorado River region near Blythe, California, USA
DOI 10.1130/GES02608.1
Authors Skyler Pendleton Mavor, Scott E. K. Bennett, Ryan S. Crow, John S. Singleton, Victoria Langenheim, Daniel F. Stockli, Mark E. Stelten, Timothy Brickey Sr., Paul J. Umhoefer, L. Sue Beard
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geosphere
Index ID 70248910
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center