The fault was once considered inactive, but recent studies show the contrary.
The fault is a break in the southern section of the Sierra Nevada-Great Valley Block, manifesting differences in the stresses in this region over a period of over 100 million years. The fault was formerly right lateral-moving (horizontal sliding), but has changed to a normal (vertical lifting) mode of motion over the past several thousands of years.
^Nadin, E. S.; Saleeby, J. B. (2005). "Recent Motion on the Kern Canyon Fault, Southern Sierra Nevada, California". American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting51: 1369. Bibcode:2005AGUFM.T51D1369N. #T51D-1369.