Numerous low- to moderate-intensity earthquakes have been recorded in a zone of diffuse modern seismicity in southwest Indiana, southeast Illinois, and northernmost Kentucky. Structural elements within the zone include the Wabash Valley Fault System, the LaSalle Anticlinal Belt in western Illinois, and the Rough Creek-Shawneetown Fault System in northern Kentucky. The presence of seismically-induced liquefaction features in the near-surface alluvial sediments in the region indicates that strong ground motion has occurred in the recent geological past, but because the glacial and alluvial sediments in the Wabash Valley appear to be otherwise undisturbed, post-Paleozoic ground deformation resulting from movement on these structural elements has not yet been documented.
Morphometric analysis of the land surface, detailed mapping of geomorphic elements in the valley, reconnaissance drilling of the Holocene and Pleistocene alluvium, and structural analysis of the bedrock underlying the valley were used to determine whether the geomorphology of the valley and the patterns of alluviation of the Wabash River were affected by surface deformation associated with the seismic zone during the late Pleistocene and Holocene.
Among the observed features in the valley that can be attributed to deformation are: (1) tilting of the modern land surface to the west, (2) preferred channel migration toward the west side of the valley, with concomitant impact on patterns of soil development and sedimentation rate, (3) a convex longitudinal profile of the Wabash River where it crosses the LaSalle Anticlinal Belt, and (4) increased incision of the river into its floodplain downstream from the anticlinal belt.