LA BREA TAR PITS - mammoths, sabre tooth tigers, sloths, and other bones dug up from the same area where the museum stands. Pit 91, in the summer time, is open for digging (by the paleontologists, but we are allowed to watch). There is a laboratory inside the museum, where visitors can see the cleaning of the ice age bones. Monday through Friday, 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
- Saturday, Sunday & Holidays, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. $7 admission fee, discounts to students and seniors.
Since I was young, I've always heard stories of the La Brea Tar pits. Over thousands of years, the Pits have swallowed up animals that weren't wise enough to go around them.
It is incredible the amount of fossils they've pulled from the pits. They aren't all Saber Toothed Cats either. There are hundreds of animals with the Dire Wolves being the most Popular.
Walking by the pits is like walking by a road crew. You can smell the tar. There's not much to look at in the pits. The good stuff has been excavated and is housed in the George Page Museum next to the Pits.
On Wilshire Blvd, in the area of Los Angeles west of downtown and south of Hollywood, are the La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum. The tar pits contain thousands of animal skeletons from the Pleistocene on, mostly to about 40,000-10,000 years ago. One can see open tar pits in the park and go to the museum, which contains numerous partial and complete skeletons taken from the tar pits. One can also go visit a pit which is currently being excavated. Visiting the park and the open, fenced-in pits is free, but one must pay to visit the museum and excavation pit. Skeletons found include huge numbers of dire wolves, plus sabre-tooth tigers, mastadons, bears, etc.
La Brea Tar Pits are a famous cluster of tar pits located in Hancock Park in the urban heart of Los Angeles. Asphalt (colloquially termed tar, which in Spanish is termed brea, see below) has seeped up from the ground in this area for tens of thousands of years, forming hundreds of sticky pools that trapped animals and plants which happened to enter. Over time, the asphalt fossilized the remains. The result is an incredibly rich collection of fossils dating from the last ice age.
The Page Museum is located at the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits in the heart of Los Angeles. Rancho La Brea is one of the world’s most famous fossil localities, recognized for having the largest and most diverse assemblage of extinct Ice Age plants and animals in the world. Visitors can learn about Los Angeles as it was between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, when animals such as saber-toothed cats and mammoths roamed the Los Angeles Basin. Through windows at the Page Museum Laboratory, visitors can watch bones being cleaned and repaired. Outside the Museum, in Hancock Park, life-size replicas of several extinct mammals are featured.
"From the Page Museum website"
I really wanted to visit the La Brea Tar Pits..... and they didn't disappoint.
I was lucky enough to be taken there by LA friends and so was able to spend a couple of hours exploring.
The tar pits are really unusual, although not unique. Asphaltum (tar) seeps up to the surface via a fault above the underlying oil field and..in the past..the whole area was a huge tar 'marsh' with thick layers of sticky tar covered by leaves and/or water. Tar 'springs' burst to the surface, a mixture of tar and water which separated as it left the ground. Hundreds of thousands of animals became trapped and their fossilised remains have been excavated on the site for the past hundred years or so.
There is a vast asphalt 'lake' at the entrance, but this gives a wrong impression of how the tar 'marsh' originally looked. It's actually an old asphaltum mine, with a top layer of water and methane bubbles continually rising to the surface and bursting. But it is fascinating nonetheless, with a most evocative smell of hot roads in childhood summers.
The George C Page museum was built on site to house the fossils discovered, and to display just a few of them. It opened in 1977 and is a very well-presented museum indeed, with plenty to interest children. The skeleton of 'Zed', a mammoth, is perhaps the prize exhibit but I was most taken with the beautiful...and complete..bird skeletons on display.
Modern scientific technology has allowed paleontologists to extract microfossils from the tar pits: seeds, tiny bones, pollen grains and insect parts.These add hugely to our knowledge of prehistoric times.
You can see an excavation in the parkland surrounding the museum (pit 91) although work is in abeyance at the moment..the focus is on 'project 23', the excavation and examination of 23 huge containers of deposit rescued when the underground parking garage of the nearby LA County Art Museum was constructed in 2006, exposing 16 new fossil deposits. It is expected to take several more years to go through the deposits so ground excavations have been halted for the time being.
Even if you are not especially interested in prehistory the La Brea Tar Pits are an absolute must , if only because you own't find an excavation like it anywhere else. And children will love the experience!
Information, opening times and entrance on the official website below.
This is the site of a tarpit in midtown LA where for eons animals have been captured as they tried to drink what they thought was water. It is one of the richest site of fossils of extinct animals in the US.
Tens of thousands of years ago (much more recently than dinosaurs, which went extinct some 160 million years ago), animals got trapped in oil seeping up from the ground. As crude oil sits around, its lighter components evaporate and it becomes extremely sticky and difficult to extricate oneself from (i.e. tar). As even more evaporates, it becomes a hard black substance (i.e. asphalt). The animals would get stuck and die, and then their bones would be quickly covered up with asphalt and thus very well preserved. You can still see the La Brea tar pits (they're enclosed by fences now), and if you go to the nearby Page Museum, you can see skeletons that have been retrieved.
The La Brea tar pits are just what they sound like - pools of stinky tar in the middle of L.A., with statues of mammoths in various stages of sinking into the tar.
However, on the grounds of the tar pits, the Page Museum offers an interesting look at what has been reclaimed from the tar pits, including this collection of wolf skulls. Excavation of the pits is still in progress - you can walk outside to an excavation area for a first hand look. Don't stray from the paths, though, or you might end up being the next thing they pull from the muck!
Captain G. Allan Hancock
Donor of Hancock Park
to the people of Los Angeles County
Placed June 13, 1963
Located next to the LA Brea Tarpits, this museum houses the collection of fossil recovered from the pits.
The grounds are free,visiting the museum will cost you admittance. And it smells of newly made roads :)