Deep canyons along the Salmon, Snake, and Clearwater rivers in central Idaho, USA suggest long-lasting transient incision, but the timing and drivers of this incision are not well understood. The perturbation of the Yellowstone hotspot, eruption of flood basalts, and drainage of Lake Idaho all occurred within or near to this region, but the relationship among these events and incision is unclear. Here, we utilized in situ 10Be cosmogenic radionuclide concentrations for 46 samples (17 new) of fluvial sediment across the region to quantify erosion rates, calibrate stream power models, and estimate incision timing. We estimate that transient incision along the Salmon River began prior to ca. 10 Ma. However, canyon age decreases to ca. 5 Ma or earlier farther to the north. For a group of tributaries underlain by basalt, we use the age of the basalt to estimate that local transient incision began between ca. 11.5 and 5 Ma. Based on these timing constraints, the canyons along the Salmon and Clearwater rivers predate the drainage of Lake Idaho. We argue that canyon incision was triggered by events related to the Yellowstone hotspot (e.g., basalt lava damming, subsidence of the Columbia Basin, reactivation of faults, and/or lower crustal flow). Furthermore, our models suggest basalt may be more erodible than the other rock types we study. We show that lithology has a significant influence on fluvial erosion and assumptions regarding river incision model parameters significantly influence results. Finally, this study highlights how geodynamic processes can exert a significant influence on landscape evolution.

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