Abstract

The footwalls of west-dipping normal faults that separate the west-central Colorado Plateau from the Basin and Range province record at least 5-7 km, and perhaps as much as 15-20 km, of west side-up Neogene uplift, with an axis just 10-20 km west of unde-formed plateau strata. The uplift is expressed as folding and steep faulting in pre-Tertiary cratonic and disconformably overlying Neogene strata, forming a basement-cored anticline and coincident topographic high on the western margin of the plateau. We interpret the uplift as a nonelastic response of the crust to buoyancy forces accompanying the tectonic denudation of the plateau margin. Profound, isostatically driven deformation of the footwalls of major normal faults may be common in extensional terrains, calling into question several assumptions fundamental to existing models of the evolution of normal fault systems.

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