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Within the western Great Basin, a system of dextral strike-slip faults accommodates a significant fraction of the North American–Pacific plate motion. The northern Walker Lane in northwest Nevada and northeast California occupies the northern terminus of this fault system and is one of the youngest and least developed parts of the North American–Pacific transform plate boundary. Accordingly, the northern Walker Lane affords an opportunity to analyze the incipient development of a major strike-slip fault system. In northwest Nevada, the northern Walker Lane consists of a discrete ~50-km-wide belt of overlapping, curiously left-stepping dextral faults, whereas a much broader zone of disconnected, widely-spaced northwest-striking faults characterizes northeast California. The left steps accommodate little shortening and are not typical restraining bends. The left-stepping dextral faults may represent macroscopic Riedel shears developing above a nascent lithospheric-scale transform fault. Strands of the northern Walker Lane terminate in arrays of northerly striking normal faults in the northwestern Great Basin and along the eastern front of the Sierra Nevada. These relations suggest that dextral shear in the northern Walker Lane is transferred to ~NW-SE extension in the Great Basin. Offset segments of a west-trending Oligocene paleovalley suggest ~20–30 km of cumulative dextral slip across the northern Walker Lane. Strike-slip faulting began between 3 and 9 Ma, indicating a long-term slip rate of ~2–10 mm/yr, which is compatible with GPS geodetic observations of the current strain field.

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