At least three great earthquakes occurred in the New Madrid seismic zone in 1811 and 1812. Estimates of present-day strain rates suggest that such events may have a repeat time of 1000 years or less. Paleoseismological data also indicate that earthquakes large enough to cause soil liquefaction have occurred several times in the past 5000 years. However, pervasive crustal deformation expected from such a high frequency of large earthquakes is not observed. This suggests that the seismic zone is a young feature, possibly as young as several tens of thousands of years old and no more than a few million years old.