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Holocene faulting in the Bellingham forearc basin: upper-plate deformation at the northern end of the Cascadia subduction zone

May 24, 2013

The northern Cascadia forearc takes up most of the strain transmitted northward via the Oregon Coast block from the northward-migrating Sierra Nevada block. The north-south contractional strain in the forearc manifests in upper-plate faults active during the Holocene, the northern-most components of which are faults within the Bellingham Basin. The Bellingham Basin is the northern of four basins of the actively deforming northern Cascadia forearc. A set of Holocene faults, Drayton Harbor, Birch Bay, and Sandy Point faults, occur within the Bellingham Basin and can be traced from onshore to offshore using a combination of aeromagnetic lineaments, paleoseismic investigations and scarps identified using LiDAR imagery. With the recognition of such Holocene faults, the northernmost margin of the actively deforming Cascadia forearc extends 60 km north of the previously recognized limit of Holocene forearc deformation. Although to date no Holocene faults are recognized at the northern boundary of the Bellingham Basin, which is 15 km north of the international border, there is no compelling tectonic reason to expect that Holocene faults are limited to south of the international border.