La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles 2019

Seeping from the massive petroleum deposits beneath Los Angeles for tens of thousands of years, some of the products reacted with heat, air, and pressure to become natural asphalt, or tar. The area got covered with foliage or water, and for millennia animals would wander by and become trapped, sinking to the bottom where they would decompose, leaving only bones behind.

The pits that have stopped seeping and solidified are still being excavated, and hundreds of examples of Pleistocene animals have been uncovered.

Local Chumash and Tongva tribes used the tar to make large ocean going canoes, unlike any others in the Americas.

Old pits are all over the area for miles, covered in dirt, roads, and buildings. Every project in the region runs into more fossil deposits in solidified pits. Hancock Park is home to the only active tarpits in the area and that's where you can see them.

The Arrival

I drove down from Grant Park to Wilshire Blvd, and then to Hancock Park. I chose to just park at the pay lot onsite, as street parking was non-existant and I was tired from one of my annual WW2 weekends.

After that, you need to buy tickets for the covered pits and the museum, and really that is the full experience, so I suggest you do.

The Pits

They are scattered about the park - or the park formed around them - take your pick. The ones currently still pooling and active are kinda cool, but they are a slow show. I tried to catch a popping bubble in the tar for so long...
Rainwater collects as the ground is impermeable from the tar Deceptive trap
Looks like a view into the far past
Then it's time to go into the pits, some are still active, some are under excavation, which I find cooler, and you can see some of the things they are coming across.
Actively digging out bones Is known by the State of California to cause cancer
Then it was time to go to the museum, where you can see the results of the excavations much easier.
Smorgasbord of large mammals Not so woolly, but definitely mammoth
Condor Dire wolves


I think this is a draw only for people of certain tastes, like dinosaur and ancient animal enthusiasts. I, happening to be one of those, thought it was super cool, and kids will generally have a good time too.

I know that for many, this isn't a huge attraction, but it is an inexpensive location, so if you're in the area for a few days it's worth the trip.

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