Tectonic interpretation of the east margin of the Española Basin, Rio Grande rift, New Mexico, has been controversial. Previous authors have disagreed as to whether significant faulting defines the boundary between the basin and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. A more recent geophysical basin transect that suggests no significant faulting and held observation of faceted spurs along the western Sangre de Cristo Mountain front indicating a faulted margin motivate our study.
The east margin of the Española Basin for about 37 km north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is marked by a complex array of significant, late Cenozoic high-angle faults. Locally, three parallel, north-trending, high-angle faults cut Precambrian basement and Tertiary basin-fill rocks along the basin margin. Elsewhere along the margin, tilted fault blocks and intersecting faults occur. Fault area, fault attitude with depth, magnitude of fault motion, and timing of fault motion remain uncertain. However, faults studied in detail are 1-2 km long, have minimum dip-slip motion of 33-100 m, and underwent movement during the late Cenozoic. Potentially significant tectonic and seismic hazard implications arise from the possibility of post-150 ka fault motion.