Spatial differences of Quaternary deformation and intensity of tectonic activity are assessed through a detailed quantitative geomorphic study of the fault-generated mountain fronts and alluvial/fluvial systems around the Maharlou Lake Basin in the Zagros Fold–Thrust Belt of Iran. The Maharlou Lake Basin is defined as an approximately northwest–southeast trending, linear, topographic depression located in the central Zagros Mountains of Iran. The lake is located in a tectonically active area delineated by the Ghareh and Maharlou faults. Combined geomorphic and morphometric data reveal differences between the Ghareh and Maharlou mountain front faults indicating different levels of tectonic activity along each mountain front. Geomorphic indices show a relatively high degree of tectonic activity along the Ghareh Mountain Front in the southwest, in contrast with less tectonic activity along the Ahmadi Mountain Front northeast of the lake which is consistent with field evidence and seismotectonic data for the study area. A ramp valley tectonic setting is proposed to explain the tectonosedimentary evolution of the lake. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.