We integrated new geologic data with published geophysical data to document that the southernmost San Andreas fault zone, onshore of the Salton Sea, southern California, is a transpressional, 1–4-km-wide ladder-like structure. This newly identified Durmid ladder structure is a voluminous, right-reverse fault zone that broadens across Durmid Hill around rotating domains of regularly spaced, left- and right-lateral cross faults. The active East Shoreline fault zone of the San Andreas fault forms the southwest margin of this fault zone, and it is generally parallel to the main strand of the San Andreas fault zone for >30 km, deforms Pliocene to modern sediment, and has an ∼1-km-wide damage zone of strongly folded and faulted sedimentary rocks. Hundreds of left- and right-lateral cross faults and folds connect the two right-lateral strands of the San Andreas fault zone within the ladder structure for at least 25 km northward from Bombay Beach. Left-lateral cross faults strike east and likely rotated clockwise ∼45°–60° from their original northeast strike. Transpression, clockwise rotation, and right-lateral shear between the East Shoreline fault and main strand of the San Andreas fault zone in the Durmid ladder structure exhumed a large amount of Pliocene–Pleistocene basin fill since the ladder formed in the Pleistocene.
Strike-slip faults in the Durmid ladder structure cut latest Cenozoic to modern sediment and produced many of the ubiquitous folds in the area by fault-bend folding as they slipped past ramps and flats. Growth strata in the upper Brawley Formation are concentrated along the master right-lateral fault zones. Long, narrow zones of fractures displace modern sediment along both edges of the Durmid structure, perhaps due to the same kind of slow shallow creep that has been documented along the main strand of the San Andreas fault zone. Steep right and right-oblique faults and folds are the main structures in Pleistocene sediments deformed by the ∼1-km-wide East Shoreline fault. Geophysical data sets and drill holes in Coachella Valley show that the East Shoreline fault probably persists into the subsurface as a northeast-dipping fault zone that defines the basinward edge of a complex three-dimensional flower structure along ∼100 km of the San Andreas fault zone.
The East Shoreline fault appears to continue northward for over 100 km past the Mecca and Indio Hills along the northeast margin of Coachella Valley, where southwest-dipping basin-fill deposits are being exhumed on its northeast side. Lines 4 and 5 of the Salton Seismic Imaging Project imaged faults that are along strike of the East Shoreline fault and occupy the same structural position as the East Shoreline fault relative to the San Andreas fault. These data are also consistent with the East Shoreline fault being related to the Garnet Hills fault of the San Andreas fault zone. Southward, the transpressional southernmost San Andreas fault zone changes gradually along strike into the transtensional Brawley seismic zone across an ∼5-km-long transitional zone. Several-kilometer-wide strike-slip fault zones, like those documented here, occur along many active faults, including some in metropolitan areas. Their implications for ground-shaking and surface faulting hazards are currently overlooked, and they are not considered in California’s Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zones.