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The Wallula fault and tectonic framework of south-central Washington, as interpreted from magnetic and gravity anomalies

January 1, 2014

The Yakima fold and thrust belt (YFTB) in central Washington has accommodated regional, mostly north-directed, deformation of the Cascadia backarc since prior to emplacement of Miocene flood basalt of the Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG). The YFTB consists of two structural domains. Northern folds of the YFTB strike eastward and terminate at the western margin of a 20-mGal negative gravity anomaly, the Pasco gravity low, straddling the North American continental margin. Southern folds of the YFTB strike southeastward, form part of the Olympic–Wallowa lineament (OWL), and pass south of the Pasco gravity low as the Wallula fault zone. An upper crustal model based on gravity and magnetic anomalies suggests that the Pasco gravity low is caused in part by an 8-km-deep Tertiary basin, the Pasco sub-basin, abutting the continental margin and concealed beneath CRBG. The Pasco sub-basin is crossed by north-northwest-striking magnetic anomalies caused by dikes of the 8.5 Ma Ice Harbor Member of the CRBG. At their northern end, dikes connect with the eastern terminus of the Saddle Mountains thrust of the YFTB. At their southern end, dikes are disrupted by the Wallula fault zone. The episode of NE–SW extension that promoted Ice Harbor dike injection apparently involved strike-slip displacement on the Saddle Mountains and Wallula faults. The amount of lateral shear on the OWL impacts the level of seismic hazard in the Cascadia region. Ice Harbor dikes, as mapped with aeromagnetic data, are dextrally offset by the Wallula fault zone a total of 6.9 km. Assuming that dike offsets are tectonic in origin, the Wallula fault zone has experienced an average dextral shear of 0.8 mm/y since dike emplacement 8.5 Ma, consistent with right-lateral stream offsets observed at other locations along the OWL. Southeastward, the Wallula fault transfers strain to the north-striking Hite fault, the possible location of the M 5.7 Milton-Freewater earthquake in 1936.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2014
Title The Wallula fault and tectonic framework of south-central Washington, as interpreted from magnetic and gravity anomalies
DOI 10.1016/j.tecto.2013.11.006
Authors Richard J. Blakely, Brian Sherrod, Craig S. Weaver, Ray Wells, Alan C. Rohay
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Tectonophysics
Series Number
Index ID 70188868
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center