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Lake deposits have similar sedimentary characteristics and occupy similar positions within stratigraphie sequences of numerous continental rift basins that represent a wide range of geologic age, climate, and geographic location. Each lacustrine unit deposited during a phase of large lake development corresponds to a distinct rifting episode. New models for the structural evolution of continental rifts, together with changing depositional patterns through time, suggest that the topography required for large lake development only occurs early in rift history. Temporal changes in relative rates of subsidence and deposition can terminate lake occurrence by filling topographic lows, and preclude further large lake development. Thus, structural evolution, and resulting depositional patterns, limit large lake development to a specific interval in a rift's history, and are a primary control on large lake occurrence.

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