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The kinematics of east-striking faults during the Laramide orogeny in central Wyoming are problematic. These faults are commonly interpreted as thrusts accommodating north-south shortening. In addition, they have been interpreted to postdate northwest-striking faults that accommodate northeast-southwest shortening.

Results of systematic mapping, in conjunction with a detailed kinematic study, in the west Owl Creek Mountains demonstrate that the high-angle, east-striking North Owl Creek fault is dominantly left slip. The fault is linked kinematically with the low-angle Mud Creek thrust in the western Owl Creek Mountains fault system to the east and with the low-angle Black Mountain thrust in the Washakie thrust system 50 km to the west. The role of the fault was to transfer east-northeast–west-southwest shortening between the Washakie thrust system and the west Owl Creek Mountains fault system during Laramide shortening.

A protracted deformation history is required to explain the development of the North Owl Creek fault system. The system is interpreted to have formed by propagation of two lateral ramps: one linking the Mud Creek thrust, the other linking the Black Mountain thrust. Field relations also indicate that initiation of the system was probably not controlled by the orientation of Precambrian shear zones, dikes, or foliations. Instead, they indicate that Precambrian structures and Paleozoic strata have been rotated adjacent to high-angle faults in the North Owl Creek fault system during left-slip motion.

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