Sediment mixing within sediment routing systems can exert a strong influence on the preservation of provenance signals that yield insight into the influence of environmental forcings (e.g., tectonism, climate) on the earth’s surface. Here we discuss two approaches to unmixing detrital geochronologic data in an effort to characterize complex changes in the sedimentary record. First we summarize ‘top-down’ mixing, which has been successfully employed in the past to characterize the different fractions of prescribed source distributions (‘parents’) that characterize a derived sample or set of samples (‘daughters’). Second we propose the use of ‘bottom-up’ methods, previously used primarily for grain size distributions, to model parent distributions and the abundances of these parents within a set of daughters. We demonstrate the utility of both top-down and bottom-up approaches to unmixing detrital geochronologic data within a well-constrained sediment routing system in central California. Use of a variety of goodness-of-fit metrics in top-down modeling reveals the importance of considering the range of allowable mixtures over any single best-fit mixture calculation. Bottom-up modeling of 12 daughter samples from beaches and submarine canyons yields modeled parent distributions that are remarkably similar to those expected from the geologic context of the sediment-routing system. In general, mixture modeling has potential to supplement more widely applied approaches in comparing detrital geochronologic data by casting differences between samples as differing proportions of geologically meaningful end-member provenance categories.