US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in TECTONICS, VOL. 14, NO. 3, PAGES 564-593 , JUNE 1995


The NW to north-trending Walker Lane zone (WLZ) is located along the western boundary of the northern Basin and Range province with the Sierra Nevada. This zone is distinguished from the surrounding Basin and Range province on the basis of irregular topography and evidence for both normal and strike-slip Holocene faulting. Inversion of slip vectors from active faults, historic fault offsets, and earthquake focal mechanisms indicate two distinct Quaternary stress regimes within the WLZ, both of which are characterized by a consistent WNW σ3 axis; these are a normal faulting regime with a mean σ3 axis of N85 °+ 9 °W and a mean stress ratio (R value) (R=( σ2- σ1)/( σ3- σ1)) of 0.63-0.74 and a younger strike-slip faulting regime with a similar mean σ3 axis (N65° - 70°W) and R values ranging between - 0.1 and 0.2. This younger regime is compatible with historic fault offsets and earthquake focal mechanisms. Both the extensional and strikeslip stress regimes reactivated inherited Mesozoic and Cenozoic structures and also produced new faults. The presentday strike-slip stress regime has produced strike-slip, normal oblique-slip, and normal dip-slip historic faulting. Previous workers have explained the complex interaction of active strike-slip, oblique, and normal faulting in the WLZ as a simple consequence of a single stress state with a consistent WNW σ3 axis and transitional between strike-slip and normal faulting (maximum horizontal stress approximately equal to vertical stress, or R ≈ 0 in both regimes) with minor local fluctuations. The slip data reported here support previous results from Owens Valley that suggest deformation within temporally distinct normal and strike-slip faulting stress regimes with a roughly constant WNW trending σ3 axis (Zoback, 1989). A recent change from a normal faulting to a strike-slip faulting stress regime is indicated by the crosscutting striae on faults in basalts <300,000 years old and is consistent with the dominantly strike-slip earthquake focal mechanisms and the youngest striae observed on faults in Plio-Quaternary deposits. Geologic control on the timing of the change is poor; it is impossible to determine if there has been a single recent absolute change or if there is, rather, an alternating or cyclical variation in stress magnitudes. Our slip data, in particular, the cross-cutting normal and strike-slip striae on the same fault plane, are inconsistent with postulate simple strain partitioning of deformation within a single regional stress field suggested for the WLZ by Wesnousky and Jones [1994]. The location of the WLZ between the deepseated regional extension of the Basin and Range and the right-lateral strike-slip regional tectonics of the San Andreas fault zone is probably responsible for the complex interaction of tectonic regimes in this transition zone. In early to mid- Tertiary time the WLZ appears to have had a similarly complex deformational history, in this case as a back arc or intra-arc region, accommodating at least part of the right-lateral component of oblique convergence as well as a component of extension.