Abstract

Offshore northern California, the Gorda plate is subducting obliquely beneath North America; the resulting complicated tectonic setting forms the southern end of the Cascadia subduction zone. The southern Cascadia subduction zone and overlying Eel River forearc basin lie just north of the unstable Mendocino triple junction. The Neogene strata of the Eel River basin record structural deformation caused by the underthrusting of the Gorda plate as well as deformation generated by northward migration and encroachment of the Mendocino triple junction. Three distinct deformation regimes are present in the Eel River forearc basin. (1) Along the western margin of the forearc basin and within the foreslope of the accretionary prism, thrust faults and anticlines record Pliocene– Pleistocene shortening caused by subduction of the Gorda plate. (2) The southern part of the basin rotated counterclockwise in the late Pleistocene, resulting in modern transpressional deformation offshore Humboldt Bay. The rotation and deformation are caused by north-south convergence across the boundary between the Pacific plate and the southernmost part of the forearc basin at the triple junction. (3) The northeastern margin of the Eel River basin is deformed by high-angle faults with a component of strike-slip motion that may represent the incipient northward propagation of the Pacific–North American transform system north of the triple junction.

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