Abstract

Deformation within the United States midcontinent is frequently expressed as quasilinear zones of faulting and folding, such as the La Salle deformation belt, a northwest-trending series of folds cutting through the center of the Illinois basin. Seismic reflection profiles over the southern La Salle deformation belt reveal the three-dimensional structural style of deformation in the lower Paleozoic section and uppermost Precambrian(?) basement. Individual profiles and structural contour maps show for the first time that the folds of the La Salle deformation belt are underlain at depth by reverse faults that disrupt and offset intrabasement structure, offset the top of interpreted Precambrian basement, and accommodate folding of overlying Paleozoic strata. The folds do not represent development of initial dips by strata deposited over a preexisting basement high. Rather, the structures resemble subdued “Laramide-style” forced folds, in that Paleozoic stratal reflectors appear to be flexed over a fault-bounded basement uplift with the basement-cover contact folded concordantly with overlying strata. For about 40 km along strike, the dominant faults reverse their dip direction, alternating between east and west. Less well expressed antithetic or back thrusts appear to be associated with the dominant faults and could together describe a positive flower structure. The overall trend of this part of the La Salle deformation belt is disrupted by along-strike discontinuities that separate distinct fold culminations. Observations of dual vergence and along-strike discontinuities suggest an original deformation regime possibly involving limited transpression associated with distant late Paleozoic Appalachian-Ouachita mountain building. Moderate-magnitude earthquakes located west of the western flank of the La Salle deformation belt have reverse and strike-slip mechanisms at upper crustal depths, which might be reactivating deep basement faults such as observed in this study. The La Salle deformation belt is not necessarily typical of other well-known major midcontinent fault and fold zones, such as the Nemaha ridge, over which Paleozoic and younger sediments appear to simply be draped.

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