The Reelfoot Lake basin, Tennessee, is structurally complex and of great interest seismologically because it is located at the junction of two seismicity trends of the New Madrid seismic zone. To better understand the structure at this location, a 7.5-km-long seismic reflection profile was acquired on roads along the southern margin of Reelfoot Lake. The seismic line reveals a westerly dipping basin bounded on the west by the Reelfoot reverse fault zone, the Ridgely right-lateral transpressive fault zone on the east, and the Cottonwood Grove right-lateral strike-slip fault in the middle of the basin. The displacement history of the Reelfoot fault zone appears to be the same as the Ridgely fault zone, thus suggesting that movement on these fault zones has been synchronous, perhaps since the Cretaceous. Since the Reelfoot and Ridgely fault systems are believed responsible for two of the mainshocks of 1811-1812, the fault history revealed in the Reelfoot Lake profile suggests that multiple mainshocks may be typical of the New Madrid seismic zone. The Ridgely fault zone consists of two northeast-striking faults that lie at the base of and within the Mississippi Valley bluff line. This fault zone has 15 m of post-Eocene, up-to-the-east displacement and appears to locally control the eastern limit of Mississippi River migration. The Cottonwood Grove fault zone passes through the center of the seismic line and has approximately 5 m up-to-the-east displacement. Correlation of the Cottonwood Grove fault with a possible fault scarp on the floor of Reelfoot Lake and the New Markham fault north of the lake suggests the Cottonwood Grove fault may change to a northerly strike at Reelfoot Lake, thereby linking the northeast-trending zones of seismicity in the New Madrid seismic zone.
Additional publication details
Faulting along the southern margin of Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee