The Himalayan thrust belt is often cited as an example of a thrust system that propagated from hinterland to foreland; however, this kinematic sequence is not well documented, and the process of formation of the thrust belt has not been well supported. This study uses forward modeling and timing data to reveal a detailed view of the evolution of the central Himalayan thrust belt from the footwall of the South Tibetan detachment system southward to the Main Frontal thrust. By using a reasonable configuration of undeformed stratigraphy, the surface deformation in western Nepal can be dynamically reproduced, confirming that the cross sections from which the undeformed sections were derived are viable and propagated from hinterland to foreland. In addition, this study yields detailed step-by-step reconstructions of three cross sections and is the first of its kind in any thrust belt system. These detailed views are useful for understanding and bracketing erosion data, the basin sediments, and geodynamic models. Modeling shortening estimates are between 495 and 733 km from the Main Frontal thrust to the South Tibetan detachment system, and are within the range predicted for shortening in western Nepal obtained from balanced cross sections (485–743 km). Thus, the Himalayan thrust belt in western Nepal is essentially a forward-propagating thrust belt from hinterland to foreland, with minor out-of-sequence (<5 km) thrust and normal faults. The data and the forward modeling support a conventional wedge model for the development of the central Himalayan thrust belt.

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