The NE vergent Chocolate Mountains fault of south-eastern California has been interpreted as either a subduction thrust responsible for burial and prograde metamorphism of the ensimatic Orocopia Schist or as a normal fault involved in the exhumation of the schist. Our detailed structural analysis in the Gavilan Hills area provides new evidence to confirm the latter view. A zone of deformation is present at the top of the Orocopia Schist in which lineations are parallel to those in the upper plate of the Chocolate Mountains fault but oblique to ones at relatively deep levels in the schist. Both the Orocopia Schist and upper plate contain several generations of shear zones that show a transition from crystalloblastic through mylonitic to cataclastic textures. These structures formed during retrograde metamorphism and are considered to record the exhumation of the Orocopia Schist during early Tertiary time as a result of subduction return flow. The Gatuna fault, which places low-grade, supracrustal metasediments of the Winterhaven Formation above the gneisses of the upper plate, also seems to have been active at this time. Final unroofing of the Orocopia Schist occurred during early to middle Miocene regional extension and may have involved a second phase of movement on the Gatuna fault. Formation of the Chocolate Mountains fault during exhumation indicates that its top-to-the-NE sense of movement provides no constraint on the polarity of the Orocopia Schist subduction zone. This weakens the case for a previous model involving SW dipping subduction, while providing support for the view that the Orocopia Schist is a correlative of the Franciscan Complex.