The chronology of igneous activity in the Great Basin of western United States is used as a time framework for a simple plate model. This chronology suggests that a plate (Farallon plate) became underthrust to sufficient depth by the middle Tertiary to trigger the eruption of volcanic rocks of andesitic to rhyolitic composition in the central part of the Great Basin, 40 m.y. ago. This plate continued to be underthrust until about 19 m.y. ago, at which time it was completely consumed and volcanic activity ceased. When the oceanic ridge reached a certain point under the Great Basin about 16 m.y. ago, this resulted in the widespread eruption of olivine basalt and the main initial phase of Basin and Range faulting.