The primary goal of this study was to examine the cracking behavior of the face plate of a CFRD during earthquake excitation. Analyses of the impounding stage and earthquake loading were conducted in sequential phases using a 2-D plane-strain model with the appropriate non-linear constitutive relationships for the dam constituents. The effect of rockfill stiffness and the face plate design properties on the seismic performance of the face plate was investigated. The crack widths on the plate increased with earthquake shaking. Settlement of the fill during intense seismic excitation counteracted this phenomenon by causing compression on the plate at some locations. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.