Composite alkalic plutonic suites and tuffaceous diamictite, although discontinuously exposed across central Idaho in roof pendants and inliers within the Idaho batholith and Challis volcanic-plutonic complex, define the >200-km-long northwest-aligned Big Creek-Beaverhead belt. Sensitive highresolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP) U-Pb zircon dates on these igneous rocks provide direct evidence for the orientation and location of the Neoproterozoic-Paleozoic western Laurentian rift margin in the northern U.S. Cordillera. Dating delimits two discrete magmatic pulses at ca. 665-650 Ma and 500-485 Ma at the western and eastern ends, respectively, of this belt. Together with the nearby 685 Ma volcanic rocks of the Edwardsburg Formation, there is a 200 Ma history of recurrent extensional magmatic pulses along the belt. A similar history of recurrent uplift is reflected in the stratigraphic record of the associated miogeoclinal and cratonal platform basins, suggesting that the Big Creek-Beaverhead belt originated as a border fault during continental rift events. The magmatic belt is paired with the recurrently emergent Lemhi Arch and narrow miogeoclinal facies belts and it lies inboard of a northwest-striking narrow zone of thinned continental crust. These features define a northeast-extending upper-plate extensional system between southeast Washington and southeast Idaho that formed a segment of the Neoproterozoic-Paleozoic miogeocline. This segment was flanked on the north by the St. Mary-Moyie transform zone (south of a narrow southern Canadian upper-plate margin) and on the south by the Snake River transfer zone (north of a broad Great Basin lower-plate margin). These are the central segments of a zigzagshaped Cordilleran rift system of alternating northwest-striking extensional zones offset by northeast-striking transfers and transforms. The data substantiate polyphase rift and continental separation events that included (1) pre-and syn-Windermere rifting, (2) Windermere margin subsidence, (3) late Ediacaran-Cambrain rifting, and (4) welldeveloped late Ediacaran-Devonian passive margin subsidence and deposition. Timing and geometries support synchronous but opposing divergence along Cordilleran and Atlantic rifts with a junction in Southern California-Sonora. ?? 2010 Geological Society of America.