Tertiary and Quaternary tectonic faulting in southernmost Illinois

W. John Nelson, F. Brett Denny, Joseph A. Devera, Leon R. Follmer, John M. Masters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tertiary and/or Quaternary tectonic faulting is documented in three areas of southernmost Illinois: the Fluorspar Area Fault Complex (FAFC) in Pope and Massac Counties, the Ste. Genevieve Fault Zone (SGFZ) in Alexander and Union Counties, and the Commerce Fault Zone (CFZ) in Alexander County. In the FAFC, faults that strike NE and NNE displace Mounds Gravel (late Miocene to early Pleistocene) and, locally, the Metropolis terrace gravel (Pleistocene; pre-Woodfordian). No Woodfordian or younger deposits are deformed. Faults typically outline narrow, linear grabens that formed under tension with a component of strike slip. North-south to NW-trending vertical faults near the southeast end of the SGFZ displace Eocene sediments. Again, faults outline narrow grabens and show indications of strike slip. Deformed Quaternary sediments have not been observed. The CFZ, which trends northeast, displaces Mounds Gravel in Illinois and units as young as Peoria Silt (Woodfordian) in Missouri. Quaternary movement has been interpreted as right-lateral strike-slip. The CFZ coincides with a subtle gravity and magnetic lineament and seems to reflect a major feature in the basement. Surface expression in Illinois is subtle, but mafic and ultramafic intrusions, hydrothermal alteration and small faults align with the Commerce geophysical lineament. Earthquake foci in Missouri and Illinois lie on or close to the CFZ; some focal mechanisms fit the fault trend. Among these structures, only the CFZ exhibits slip that conforms to the current stress field (principal compressive stress axis E-W to ENE-WSW). Possibly, the stress field changed during Neogene time. Alternatively, high fluid pressures or local stress concentrations may have induced slip on less favorably oriented fractures. Tighter constraints are needed on timing, magnitude, and direction of Neogene displacement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-258
Number of pages24
JournalEngineering Geology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jul 15 1997


  • Faults
  • Grabens
  • Illinois
  • Mississippi embayment
  • Neogene
  • Neotectonics
  • Quaternary
  • Tertiary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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