The St. Lawrence valley system (including the St. Lawrence, Ottawa, and Champlain valleys, and the St. Lawrence or Cabot trough) is coextensive with a well-defined pattern of seismic activity. The valley system is in a region of general updoming, normal faulting, and alkaline igneous activity of a distinctive type. The main phase of tectonic activity probably dates back to Mesozoic time. The above and other evidence presented in this paper indicate the existence of a major rift valley system that may be called the St. Lawrence rift system.The Rough Creek – Kentucky River fault zone, and the normal fault zones in Texas and Oklahoma, and the Lake Superior fault zone probably represent extensions of the St. Lawrence rift system. However, current seismicity indicates that the present tectonic activity is along a straight zone running through lakes Ontario and Erie into the Mississippi embayment. The St. Lawrence rift system may also be connected with the mid-Atlantic rift, in the region of the Azores plateau.The rift hypothesis presented may be useful as a regional guide in the search for niobium-bearing alkaline complexes and diamond-bearing kimberlites.Crustal tension in the St. Lawrence region may be genetically related to the opening of the Atlantic basin as postulated in the hypothesis of continental drift.