The Pelona and Orocopia Schists are southern members of a eugeoclinal terrane that structurally underlies a large part of southwestern North America. Ion-microprobe U-Pb ages of >100 detrital zircons from three widely spaced samples of these two units indicate that deposition occurred after 70–80 Ma. Moreover, the distribution of zircon ages, including a significant peak centered ca. 1.7 Ga, implies a major contribution of detritus from the Mojave Desert and Transverse Ranges of southern California. Recrystallization of the schists at depths of 20–35 km occurred within 10–15 m.y. of deposition, which requires underthrusting at minimum rates of ∼4–12 mm/yr for reasonable thrust dips. Considering that similar processes formed the more northern Rand Schist at somewhat earlier times, our results indicate a southward progression in timing of deformation for the schists' protoliths. This result is at odds with northward migration of deformation implied by the Baja British Columbia hypothesis. The age and provenance of the schist's protoliths are consistent with models that derive the schists from either the Franciscan Complex or Great Valley Group.