Arkansas Center for Earthquake Education and Technology Transfer

The Reelfoot Rift

Once upon a time, the world's landmass was a single large continent called Rodinia. Sometime around 750 million years ago, Rodinia began to split apart into smaller continents. One of these continents, Laurentia, was the ancestor of North America.

When Rodinia began to split apart, a rift (split) in our region of Laurentia failed to open. This rift was detected using geophysical instruments and was named the "Reelfoot Rift." The Reelfoot Rift extends from Illinois soutwest toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Even though the Reelfoot Rift is called "inactive", the Reelfoot Rift continues to infuence the central United States region. For example, the New Madrid Fault System lies within confines of the Reelfoot Rift. These faults are responsible for hundreds of earthquakes that occur in the central United States.

The Mississippi Embayment Synclinorium is another interesting Arkansas geologic feature that is believed to have developed when ocean sediments accumulated in the Reelfoot Rift.

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Arkansas Earthquake Center
College of Science and Engineering Technology
2801 South University
Little Rock AR 72204

(501) 569-8223

Last Updated: September 3, 1998

Copyright 1998, UALR
All rights reserved.