Exposures in the Lake Superior region, and associated geophysical evidence, show that a 2000 km-long rift system developed within the North American craton ??? 1109-1087 Ma, the age span of the most of the volcanic rocks. This system is characterized by immense volumes of mafic igneous rocks, mostly subaerial plateau basalts, generated in two major pulses largely by a hot mantle plume. A new ocean basin was nearly formed before rifting ceased, perhaps due to the remote effect of the Grenville continental collision to the east. Broad sagging/subsidence, combined with a system of axial half-grabens separated along the length of the rift by accommodation zones, provided conditions for the accumulation of as much as 20 km of volcanic rocks and as much as 10 km of post-rift clastic sediments, both along the rift axis and in basins flanking a central, post-volcanic horst. Pre-rift mature, quartzose sandstones imply little or no uplift prior to the onset of rift volcanism. Early post-rift red-bed sediments consist almost entirely of intrabasinally derived volcanic sediment deposited in alluvial fan to fluvial settings; the exception is one gray to black carbon-bearing lacustrine(?) unit. This early sedimentation phase was followed by broad crustal sagging and deposition of progressively more mature red-bed, fluvial sediments with an extra-basinal provenance. ?? 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.