When we think of Los Angeles we think of fast cars, beautiful beaches and Hollywood. Some of us think of earthquakes and others still start to think of all the fabulous natural attractions of California such as the San Andreas Fault, Death Valley, Yosemite Valley and the La Brea Tar Pits.
The La Brea Tar Pits are something of a surprise for most visitors to Los Angeles. The pits were formed tens of thousands of years ago (but after the dinosaurs). Tar is somewhat of a misnomer, as the pits are giant deposits of heavy crude oil that seep to the surface. As this happens the oil becomes asphalt. Normally the pits are covered in shallow water – a huge attraction for animals. As the oil seeps to the surface and thickens into asphalt, it traps the animals, creating a fossil record of the plants and animals that roamed Los Angeles for tens of thousands of years. The pits themselves are now one of the most accessible, popular and well known paleontological sites in the world.
Every year new, perfectly preserved animals are uncovered and are well presented across the park and the nearby Page Museum. When construction began for an underground parking garage in 2006 for the art museum, animals such as a saber-toothed cat, bison, mastodon and even an American Lion were discovered…all this and the tar pits had already been studied for nearly 100 years.
IF YOU GO: There are plenty of cheap flights to Los Angeles so go and visit these pits. Bring a lunch and enjoy the day walking around the specimens on display and maybe take that picnic while watching an active excavation at Pit 91. When you’ve had your fill of the outside attractions take some time to explore the museum as well!
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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Flickr user Phil Scoville via a creative commons license.