The natural fracture system developed in the Cardium sandstone is examined in four outcropping structures that represent different stages of fold development. At the incipient stage of folding, the fracture system is dominated by large, widely spaced hybrid fractures that have very small displacements and are aligned in the regional shortening direction (type I orientation). These fractures are naturally propped open by asperities along the fracture surfaces. A lesser number of small thrust faults (type III orientation) are also developed. Extension fractures aligned parallel to the fold axis (type II orientation) begin to develop in the early stage of folding. Through the intermediate stage of folding, there is a progressive increase in the intensity of both type I and type II orientation fractures. Incremental increases in shear displacement on new or reactivated fractures create a gouge of comminuted sandstone grains along the fracture interface. As folding progresses to an advanced stage, there is major increase in the amount of shear displacement on both type I and type II orientation fractures. Many existing fractures coalesce into connected fracture zones and small faults that have shear offsets ranging from several centimeters to several meters. A breccia can result from intense fracturing in the rock within and marginal to these shear features.
Slickensides on type I orientation features consistently indicate slip in a subhorizontal direction, even as bed dip increases. Multiple slickenside patterns record reactivation of these features. Type II orientation fractures and small faults consistently undergo bed-perpendicular slip. Type I and type II features both serve to stretch the Cardium sandstone beds but in different directions. Only type III features, which are a minor component of the fracture population, result in bed thickening.