Initiation of the Cordilleran magmatic arc in the southwestern United States is marked by intrusion of granitic plutons, predominantly composed of alkali-calcic Fe- and Sr-enriched quartz monzodiorite and monzonite, that intruded Paleoproterozoic basement and its Paleozoic cratonal-miogeoclinal cover. Three intrusive suites, recognized on the basis of differences in high field strength element and large ion lithophile element abundances, contain texturally complex but chronologically distinctive zircons. These zircons record heterogeneous but geochemically discrete mafic crustal magma sources, discrete Permo-Triassic intrusion ages, and a prolonged postemplacement thermal history within the long-lived Cordilleran arc, leading to episodic loss of radiogenic Pb. Distinctive lower crustal magma sources reflect lateral heterogeneity within the composite lithosphere of the Proterozoic craton. Limited interaction between derived magmas and middle and upper crustal rocks probably reflects the relatively cool thermal structure of the nascent Cordilleran continental margin magmatic arc. ?? 2006 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.