From the Middle Jurassic onwards persistent igneous activity in the southern Andes around 46 degrees S was controlled by easterly dipping subduction along the Pacific margin. Cogenetic plutonic rocks belonging to the Patagonian batholith, and calc-alkaline volcanics ranging from basaltic andesites to rhyolitic tuffs and ignimbrites are the principal products. Erosion of the primary volcanics has led at various times to the development of thick volcaniclastic sequences, for example in the Cretaceous--Lower Tertiary Divisadero formation. The Coyhaique region marks the northerly extension of a narrow back-arc basin in which the marine Neocomian successions accumulated. Volcaniclastics from the island arc, which presumably lay to the west, are intercalated with the sediments. Although the marine basin was short-lived a mildly extensional back-arc regime may have existed through much of Mesozoic--Recent times. Widespread basalt--rhyolite volcanism on the eastern side of the cordillera seems to have been associated with this tectonic environment. Remnants of the Patagonian basalt plateau at latitude 45-47 degrees S extend from the Argentine--Chile frontier to Lago Colhue Huapi. Four principal age and compositional groups have been distinguished in the lavas. (i) The oldest, which are about 80 Ma, occur in sections at Senguerr and Morro Negro. They are almost exclusively tholeiitic, but show some calc-alkaline affinities and resemble in other respects basalts from marginal basins. (ii) The second group (57-43 Ma) occur in the lower part of the Chile Chico section with a compositional spread from olivine tholeiites through alkali basalts to one occurrence of a basanite. (iii) The upper part of the main plateau sequence, where the flows are in the range 25-9 Ma, are dominantly of alkali basalt composition. (iv) Post-plateau flows from small cinder cones on the surface of the plateau range in age from ca. 4 Ma to 0.2 Ma or less. They are mostly highly undersaturated basanites, with occasional leucite basanites, enriched in incompatible elements. A few of the earlier tholeiites with calc-alkali traits may have been closely associated with subduction or marginal basin processes. The younger lavas are more alkalic intraplate types generated in the remote back-arc extensional zone.