When fibroblasts are placed within a three-dimensional collagen matrix, cell locomotion results in translocation of the flexible collagen fibrils of the matrix, a remodeling process that has been implicated in matrix morphogenesis during development and wound repair. In the current experiments, we studied formation and maturation of cell-matrix interactions under conditions in which we could distinguish local from global matrix remodeling. Local remodeling was measured by the movement of collagen-embedded beads towards the cells. Global remodeling was measured by matrix contraction. Our observations show that no direct relationship occurs between protrusion and retraction of cell extensions and collagen matrix remodeling. As fibroblasts globally remodel the collagen matrix, however, their overall morphology changes from dendritic to stellate/bipolar, and cell-matrix interactions mature from punctate to focal adhesion organization. The less well organized sites of cell-matrix interaction are sufficient for translocating collagen fibrils, and focal adhesions only form after a high degree of global remodeling occurs in the presence of growth factors. Rho kinase activity is required for maturation of fibroblast morphology and formation of focal adhesions but not for translocation of collagen fibrils.