A high-resolution gravity survey through the Tualatin Mountains (Portland Nills) west of downtown Portland exhibits evidence of faults previously identified from surface geologic and aeromagnetic mapping. The gravity survey was conducted in 1996 along the 4.5-km length of a twin-bore tunnel, then under construction and now providing light-rail service between downtown Portland and communities west of the Portland Hills. Gravitational attraction gradually increases from west to east inside the tunnel, which reflects the tunnel's location between low-density sedimentary deposits of the Tualatin basin to the west and high-density, mostly concealed Eocene basalt to the east. Superimposed on this gradient are several steplike anomalies that we interpret as evidence for faulted contacts between rocks of contrasting density. The largest of these anomalies occurs beneath Sylvan Creek, where a fault had previously been mapped inside the tunnel. Another occurs 1200 m from the west portal, at the approximate intersection of the tunnel with an aeromagnetic anomaly associated with the Sylvan fault (formerly called the Oatfield fault). Lithologic cross sections based on these gravity data show that the steplike anomalies are consistent with steeply dipping reverse faults, although strike-slip displacements also may be important. Three gravity lows correspond with topographic lows directly overhead and may reflect zones of shearing. Several moderate earthquakes (M ??? 3.5) occurred near the present-day location of the tunnel in 1991, suggesting that some of these faults or other faults in the Portland Hills fault zone are seismically active.
Additional publication details
Gravity study through the Tualatin Mountains, Oregon: Understanding crustal structure and earthquake hazards in the Portland urban area