Abstract

The interpretation of 1047 km of seismic reflection data collected in western Lake Superior is presented along with reflection traveltime contour maps and gravity models to understand the overall geometry of the Midcontinent Rift System beneath the lake. The Douglas, Isle Royale, and Keweenaw fault zones, clearly imaged on the seismic profiles, are interpreted to be large offset detachment faults associated with initial rifting. These faults have been reactivated as reverse faults with 3–5 km of throw. The Douglas Fault Zone is not directly connected with the Isle Royale Fault Zone. The seismic data has imaged two large basins filled with more than 22 km of middle Keweenawan pre-Portage Lake and Portage Lake volcanic rocks and up to 8 km of upper Keweenawan Oronto and Bayfield sedimentary rocks. These basins persisted throughout Keweenawan time and are separated by a ridge of Archean rocks and a narrow trough bounded by the Keweenaw Fault Zone to the south. Another fault zone, herein named the Ojibwa fault zone, previously interpreted as the northeastern extension of the Douglas Fault Zone, has been reinterpreted as a reverse fault that closely follows the ridge of Archean rocks. Previous researchers have stated that neighboring segments of the rift display alternating polarity of basins associated with large detachment faults. Accommodation zones have been previously interpreted to exist between rift segments; however, the seismic data do not image a clearly identifiable accommodation zone separating the two basins in western Lake Superior. Thus, the seismic profile may lie directly above the pivot of a scissors-type accommodation fault zone, there is no vertical offset associated with the zone, or the zone does not exist. Seismic data interpretations indicate that application of a simple alternating polarity basin – accommodation zone model is an oversimplification of the complex geological structures associated with the Midcontinent Rift System.

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