The Yakima fold province, located in the backarc of the Cascadia subduction zone, is a region of active strain accumulation and deformation distributed across a series of fault-cored folds. The geodetic network in central Washington has been used to interpret large-scale N-S shortening and westward-increasing strain; however, geodetic data are unable to resolve shortening rates across individual structures in this low-strain-rate environment. Resolving fault geometries, slip rates, and timing of faulting in the Yakima fold province is critically important to seismic hazard assessment for nearby infrastructure and population centers.
The Saddle Mountains anticline is one of the most prominent Yakima folds. It is unique within the Yakima fold province in that the syntectonic strata of the Ringold Formation are preserved and provide a record of deformation and drainage reorganization. Here, we present new stratigraphic columns, U-Pb zircon tephra ages, U-series caliche ages, and geophysical modeling that constrain two line-balanced and retrodeformed cross sections. These new constraints indicate that the Saddle Mountains anticline has accommodated 1.0−1.3 km of N-S shortening since 10 Ma, that shortening increases westward along the anticline, and that the average slip rate has increased 6-fold since 6.8 Ma. Provenance analysis suggests that the source terrane for the Ringold Formation was similar to that of the modern Snake River Plain. Using new slip rates and structural constraints, we calculate the strain accumulation time, interpretable as a recurrence interval, for earthquakes on the Saddle Mountains fault and find that large-magnitude earthquakes could rupture along the Saddle Mountains fault every 2−11 k.y.