The Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort (CRIC) Study was established to examine risk factors for the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in patients with CKD. We examined baseline demographic and clinical characteristics. Seven clinical centers recruited adults who were aged 21 to 74 yr and had CKD using age-based estimated GFR (eGFR) inclusion criteria. At baseline, blood and urine specimens were collected and information regarding health behaviors, diet, quality of life, and functional status was obtained. GFR was measured using radiolabeled iothalamate in one third of participants. A total of 3612 participants were enrolled with mean age +/- SD of 58.2 +/- 11.0 yr; 46% were women, and 47% had diabetes. Overall, 45% were non-Hispanic white, 46% were non-Hispanic black, and 5% were Hispanic. Eighty-six percent reported hypertension, 22% coronary disease, and 10% heart failure. Mean body mass index was 32.1 +/- 7.9 kg/m(2), and 47% had a BP >130/80 mmHg. Mean eGFR was 43.4 +/- 13.5 ml/min per 1.73 m(2), and median (interquartile range) protein excretion was 0.17 g/24 h (0.07 to 0.81 g/24 h). Lower eGFR was associated with older age, lower socioeconomic and educational level, cigarette smoking, self-reported CVD, peripheral arterial disease, and elevated BP. Lower level of eGFR was associated with a greater burden of CVD as well as lower socioeconomic and educational status. Long-term follow-up of participants will provide critical insights into the epidemiology of CKD and its relationship to adverse outcomes.