The East Range in northwestern Nevada is a large, east-tilted crustal block bounded by west-dipping normal faults. Detailed mapping of Tertiary stratigraphic units demonstrates a two-phase history of faulting and extension. The oldest sedimentary and volcanic rocks in the area record cumulative tilting of ~30°–45°E, whereas younger olivine basalt flows indicate only a 15°–20°E tilt since ca. 17–13 Ma. Cumulative fault slip during these two episodes caused a minimum of 40% extensional strain across the East Range, and Quaternary fault scarps and seismic activity indicate that fault motion has continued to the present day. Apatite fission track and (U-Th)/He data presented here show that faulting began in the East Range ca. 17–15 Ma, coeval with middle Miocene extension that occurred across much of the Basin and Range. This phase of extension occurred contemporaneously with middle Miocene volcanism related to the nearby northern Nevada rifts, suggesting a link between magmatism and extensional stresses in the crust that facilitated normal faulting in the East Range.
Younger fault slip, although less well constrained, began after 10 Ma and is synchronous with the onset of low-magnitude extension in many parts of northwestern Nevada and eastern California. These findings imply that, rather than migrating west across a discrete boundary, late Miocene extension in western Nevada is a distinct, younger period of faulting that is superimposed on the older, middle Miocene distribution of extended and unextended domains. The partitioning of such middle Miocene deformation may reflect the influence of localized heterogeneities in crustal structure, whereas the more broadly distributed late Miocene extension may reflect a stronger influence from regional plate boundary processes that began in the late Miocene.