Reelfoot rift and its impact on Quaternary deformation in the central Mississippi River valley


Geophysical and drill-hole data within the Reelfoot rift of Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kentucky, USA, were integrated to create a structure contour map and three-dimensional computer model of the top of the Precambrian crystalline basement. The basement map and model clearly define the northeast-trending Cambrian Reelfoot rift, which is crosscut by southeast-trending basement faults. The Reelfoot rift consists of two major basins, separated by an intrarift uplift, that are further subdivided into eight subbasins bound by northeast- and southeast-striking rift faults. The rift is bound to the south by the White River fault zone and to the north by the Reelfoot normal fault. The modern Reelfoot thrust fault, responsible for most of the New Madrid seismic zone earthquakes, is interpreted as an inverted basement normal fault. Geologic interpretation of 5077 shallow borings in the central Mississippi River valley enabled the construction of a structure contour map of the Pliocene-Pleistocene unconformity (top of the Eocene-base of Mississippi River alluvium) that overlies most of the Reelfoot rift. This map reveals both river erosion and tectonic deformation. Deformation of the Pliocene-Pleistocene unconformity appears to be controlled by the northeast- and southeast-trending basement faults. The northeast-trending rift faults have undergone and continue to undergo Quaternary dextral transpression. This has resulted in displacement of two major rift blocks and formation of the Lake County uplift, Joiner ridge, and the southern half of Crowley's Ridge as compressional stepover zones that appear to have originated above basement fault intersections. The Lake County uplift has been tectonically active over the past ∼2400 yr and corresponds with a major segment of the New Madrid seismic zone. The aseismic Joiner ridge and the southern portion of Crowley's Ridge may reflect earlier uplift, thus indicating Quaternary strain migration within the Reelfoot rift. © 2008 Geological Society of America.

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