Proterozoic diabase and gabbro dikes (~2120 Ma old) form a major northwest-oriented swarm extending about 300 km from the Mesabi iron range in Minnesota to the vicinity of Kenora, Ontario. The dikes were emplaced into Archean crust at about the time that the Early Proterozoic basin of the Lake Superior region was opening by rifting, and the swarm and the basin may therefore be tectonically related. The dikes are overlain unconformably by the Animikie Group, the upper sedimentary sequence in the Proterozoic basin in Minnesota, but may be approximately coeval with mafic volcanic rocks in the pre-Animikie Mille Lacs Group. A two-stage tectonic model involving (1) regional right-lateral crustal shear in the late Archean and (2) hot-spot rifting in the Early Proterozoic is proposed to account for the swarm.The dikes are iron-rich quartz tholeiites that are differentiated toward dioritic compositions. Late alteration to hydrous phases, including blue–green amphibole, chlorite, and sericite, together with lesser amounts of prehnite and epidote, is ubiquitous but variable in intensity, and is regarded as a deuteric phenomenon. The interior portions of some large dikes are compositionally layered parallel to contacts; the layers differ from each other in the proportions of primary hornblende, clinopyroxene, and plagioclase and thus range in composition across the gabbro–diorite boundary.Chilled margins of the dikes contain flow-aligned phenocrysts of plagioclase, clinopyroxene, titanomagnetite, and ilmenite. The clinopyroxenes occur as three morphotypes that have distinct compositions, indicating a complex intratelluric history. The dike magma was emplaced into cool Archean crust at an inferred temperature of about 1085 °C and was quenched in a matter of minutes at the dike walls. Complete solidification at the centers of dikes wider than 100 m appears to have taken more than 40 years.