Jurassic Park right in the heart of Los Angeles, only without the Live Dinosaurs and/or Special Effects.
According to Wikipeda, it was the Portolá expedition, a group of Spanish explorers led by Gaspar de Portolá, who made the first written record of the Tar Pits in 1769. Member of the expedition, Father Juan Crespí wrote, “While crossing the basin the scouts reported having seen some geysers of tar issuing from the ground like springs; it boils up molten, and the water runs to one side and the tar to the other”. Union Oil geologist W. W. Orcutt is credited with first recognizing fossilized prehistoric animal bones preserved in pools of asphalt on the Hancock Ranch in 1901. These would be the first of many fossils excavated from the La Brea Tar Pits.
The “Tar” in the La Brea Tar Pits are composed of heavy oil fractions called asphaltum, which seeped from the earth as oil. This seepage has been happening for tens of thousands of years. From time to time, the asphalt would form a deposit thick enough to trap animals, and the surface would be covered with layers of water, dust, or leaves. Animals would wander in, become trapped, and eventually die. Predators would also enter to eat the trapped animals and also become stuck.
Today, the La Brea Tar Pits are still in existence, and are just as big a part of Los Angeles lore as the Hollywood Sign. The Pits themselves are walled off by a eight foot tall fences, which you can see through. No chance of you winding up like the Mastodon in that shot. Families and Tour Buses are there all the time, but the best part of it is, you can wander over from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, to at least get a quick gander at the place.
Bear in mind (even I’m just learning about this now). There is a reason why its called the La Brea Tar Pits, as opposed to Pit. There are three Pits listed on their campus map. The main pit, the big one you see in photos is the Lake Pit, but there are a number of others on the grounds closer to the Japanese Art Pavilion of LACMA.
There’s also the George C. Page Museum which houses some of the fossils found in the Tar Pits. This is the one place I haven’t been inside yet, at it appears quite small…from the outside. But what you see is just the atrium, and it looks like a vital part of a complete visit to the Tar Pits.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Admission is $11 dollars for Adults, Children 5 and up, $5 bucks, and Veterans, Toddlers, EBT Cardholders, Teachers, and Members are of course, free.
PARKING: As a LACMA Member, I’ve been parking at the LACMA Lot and walking over as a part of my trip to the Museum. It’s $10 bucks as a LACMA Member ($20 if you’re not). It’s a fun little walk, and its amusing to see the worlds change over like they do along the way. Fine Art, Fine Art, Japanese Art, Sculpture Garden…Jurassic Park.
The Page Museum has it’s own lot, at the market-competition friendly price of $9 dollars on Weekdays and $7 bucks on Weekends. According to the Page Museum’s website:
The Museum’s parking lot is located at the corner of Curson Ave. and 6th St., directly behind the museum (enter from the western side of Curson Ave).
La Brea Tar Pits
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Hancock Park is pretty much open 24-7. How wise it is to hang around late at night is another matter. All the Tar Pits are walled-off/fenced-off.