Sanidine dating and magnetostratigraphy constrain the timing of integration of the lower Colorado River (southwestern United States and northern Mexico) with the evolving Gulf of California. The Colorado River arrived at Cottonwood Valley (Nevada and Arizona) after 5.24 Ma (during or after the Thvera subchron). The river reached the proto–Gulf of California once between 4.80 and 4.63 Ma (during the C3n.2r subchron), not at 5.3 Ma and 5.0 Ma as previously proposed. Duplication of section across newly identified strands of the Earthquake Valley fault zone (California) probably explains the discrepancy. The data also imply the start of focused plate motion and basin development in the Salton Trough (California) at 6–6.5 Ma and relative tectonic stability of the southernmost part of the lower Colorado River corridor after its integration. After integration, the Colorado River quickly incised through sediment-filled basins and divides between them as it also likely excavated Grand Canyon (Arizona). The liberated sediment from throughout the system led to deposition of hundreds of meters of Bullhead Alluvium downstream of Grand Canyon after 4.6 Ma as the river adjusted to its lower base level.