Abstract

Betweeen the northwest-trending Sierra Nevada and the north-northeast-trending ranges that characterize most of the Great Basin section of the Basin and Range province is a belt of confused and divergent topographic forms, which is approximately 50 miles wide and 300 miles long. Along the eastern part of this belt is a topographically low lineament called the Walker Lane.

A number of the ranges along the belt have an arcuate form which is controlled by the structure of rocks that are mainly of pre-Cretaceous age; locally, in the southern part of the belt, rocks as young as early Miocene show the arcuate form. The strike of tilted beds, fold axes, and in places elongate plutons, parallels the trend of the arcuate ranges, herein called “oroflexes”—defined as mountain ranges with arcuate trends that result from tectonic bending of the crust.

The gross structural pattern of pre-middle Miocene rocks along the belt is a series of sigmoidal bends that suggest gigantic dextral drag. The sigmoidal bends define the oroflexes, facies boundaries, and structural trend lines. These features are cut in places by at least three, and probably five, major northwest-trending faults having right-lateral separations of many miles. Along the strike, the two largest faults seem to die out and the movement is believed to be taken up by bending.

The indicated total horizontal displacement by bending and faulting along the belt is 80–120 miles, the Great Basin having moved southeastward relative to the Sierra Nevada. This movement is most likely restricted to the crust, which at some depth is thought to have moved freely over deeper material —either a deeper segment of the crust or the mantle.

Available evidence permits the interpretation that the deformation began possibly as early as late Early Jurassic and that the same movement pattern has prevailed ever since. The bending and major strike-slip faulting must have been completed by early or middle Miocene time but much of it may have taken place as long ago as the Jurassic. More recent movements have been restricted to faulting.

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