Newly available industry seismic reflection data provide critical information for understanding the structure and origin of the upper crust (0–12 km depth) beneath the central Illinois basin and the seismic-tectonic framework north of the New Madrid seismic zone in the central Mississippi Valley. Mapping of reflector sequences furnishes the first broad three-dimensional perspective of the structure of Precambrian basement beneath the central United States Midcontinent. The highly coherent basement reflectivity is expressed as a synformal wedge of dipping and subhorizontal reflections situated beneath the center of the Illinois basin that thickens and deepens to the northeast (e.g., 0 to ∼3 km thickness along a 123 km south to north line). The thickening trend of the wedge qualitatively mimics the northward thickening of the Late Cambrian Mt. Simon Sandstone; however, other Paleozoic units in the Illinois basin generally thicken southward into the basin center. The seismic data also reveal an anomalous subsequence defined by a spoon-shaped distribution of disrupted reflections located along the southern margin of the wedge. The boundaries of this subsequence are marked by distinct steeply dipping reflections (possible thrust faults?) that continue or project up to antiformal disruptions of lower Paleozoic marker reflectors, suggesting Paleozoic or possibly later tectonic reactivation of Precambrian structure. The areal extent of the subsequence appears to roughly correspond to an anomalous concentration of larger magnitude upper to middle crustal earthquakes. There are multiple hypotheses for the origin of the Precambrian reflectivity, including basaltic flows or sills interlayered with clastic sediments and/or emplaced within felsic igneous rocks. Such explanations are analogous to nearby Keweenawan rift-related volcanism and sedimentation, which initiated during Proterozoic rifting, and were followed eventually by reverse faulting along the rift margins caused by Grenville compression.

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