Melting occurs at progressively greater depths and higher temperatures from west to east across the Cascades volcanic arc in northern California, as demonstrated by compositional variations observed in high-alumina olivine tholeiites. The lavas studied erupted from seven vents defining a 75-km-long, east-west transect across the arc, from near Mount Shasta to east of Medicine Lake volcano. The increase in melting depth across the arc parallels modeled isotherms in the mantle wedge and does not parallel the inferred dip of the slab. The depth of mantle melting at which the high-alumina olivine tholeiites were created is ∼36 km at the western end of the transect and 66 km at the eastern end. The very high temperatures of dry melting so close to the crust indicate a transitory condition of the mantle.