Phanerozoic strike-slip faulting in the continental interior platform of the United States: Examples from the Laramide Orogen, midcontinent, and Ancestral Rocky Mountains

S. Marshak, W. J. Nelson, J. H. McBride

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The continental interior platform of the United States is that part of the North American craton where a thin veneer of Phanerozoic strata covers Precambrian crystalline basement. N- to NE-trending and W- to NW-trending fault zones, formed initially by Proterozoic/Cambrian rifting, break the crust of the platform into rectilinear blocks. These zones were reactivated during the Phanerozoic, most notably in the late Palaeozoic Ancestral Rockies event and the Mesozoic-Cenozoic Laramide orogeny - some remain active today. Dip-slip reactivation can be readily recognized in cross section by offset stratigraphic horizons and monoclinal fault-propagation folds. Strike-slip displacement is hard to document because of poor exposure. Through offset palaeochannels, horizontal slip lineations, and strain at fault bends locally demonstrate strike-slip offset, most reports of strike-slip movements for interior-platform faults are based on occurrence of map-view belts of en echelon faults and anticlines. Each belt overlies a basement-penetrating master fault, which typically splays upwards into a flower structure. In general, both strike-slip and dip-slip components of displacement occur in the same fault zone, so some belts of en echelon structures occur on the flanks of monoclinal folds. Thus, strike-slip displacement represents the lateral components of oblique fault reactivation: dip-slip and strike-slip components are the same order of magnitude (tens of metres to tens of kilometres). Effectively, faults with strike-slip components of displacement act as transfers accommodating jostling of rectilinear crustal blocks. In this context, the sense of slip on an individual strike-slip fault depends on block geometry, not necessarily on the trajectory of regional σ1. Strike-slip faulting in the North American interior differs markedly from that of southern and central Eurasia, possibly because of a contrast in lithosphere strength. Weak Eurasia strained significantly during the Alpine-Himalayan collision, forcing crustal blocks to undergo significant lateral escape. The strong North American craton strained relatively little during collisional-convergent orogeny, so crustal blocks underwent relatively small displacements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-184
Number of pages26
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Geology


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