Step Back into the Ice Age at the La Brea Tar Pits Los Angeles, California

Thousands of people a year flock to see the Iconic Hollywood sign, tour man made theme parks, and see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but if you want to have an experience that will you will never forget, please allow time to tour La Brea Tar Pits and museum.  The average time needed will be about four hours to explore the grounds and take some guided tours. There is a little something for everyone, and it caters to all levels of knowledge about the fossils and discoveries made here dating back to the Ice Ages.

These asphalt tar pits have been seeping gooey fluid for tens of thousands of years.  They bubble up from the ground forming a sticky surface that the animals became trapped in and died.   Millions of fossils have been excavated and still being extracted from here today.  The asphalt substance has preserved the fossils of animals, insects, rodents and millions of things trapped here for thousands of years.

In our first tour, the staff tried to recreate the actual horror of the animals trapped in the tar pits.  Her graphic details of how they believed the real events took place in the La Brea tar pits were unraveled as they discovered and recreated  history through the discovery of fossils.  Many movies have been filmed at the site, but their version of what happened was far from the truth.  In the movies you may have seen where the Mammoth runs across a tar pit, hidden by leaves, and starts to sink slowly into the tar pit never to be seen again.  This death would have been much kinder than the image the staff imprinted on my brain of what they believed happened.  They believed the animal became partially stuck in the tar pits, unable to move their feet and started to scream horribly trying to escape.   This screaming animal attracted other animals, like the dire wolf.  The dire wolf saw an easy meal of the partially, exposed, stuck animal and decided to attack the helpless animal.  What happened next was the dire wolf stepped in the tar pit, and then it became stuck too in the gooey mess too! Both animals were left to the fate of starvation, dehydration and insects eating their partially exposed, decayed bodies. It was a slow, agonizing death for all the animals trapped.

Above is an exhibit of actual bones that have been excavated.  There are way too many bones found at La Brea for me to list them all here, but some of the larger animals were sloths, dire wolfs, saber tooth cats, and mastodons.   The skull above is of a Juvenile Mastodon or our version of an elephant today.  I can only imagine the mother’s horror and feeling of helplessness as she watched her baby immersed in the sticky solution.  She may have tried to help free her baby , only to be stuck in the tar pit herself too.  A slow, agonizing death was unavoidable.

Above is another exhibit showing how they encase part of the tar pit pulling them out with a crane in huge blocks.  Afterwards, they have the task of going through the crates to clean, piece together and further preserve the many bones. Today they are still excavating and finding more fossils and bones.  Most of the work at La Brea  is accomplished only on donations, grants and volunteers.  They hire only a few Paleontologists and Scientists.  IMG_0914.JPG

Inside the museum you will find:

  • Replicas of animals recovered
  • Actual Scientists at work cleaning the fossils off of the asphalt and sticky substances
  • Exhibits to touch actual fossils
  • Many interactive exhibits for children and adults.
  • Many additional programs to sign up for continuing education
  • 3D movies (additional fee)
  • Gift Shop

So if you are up for trip back in time, the La Brae tar pits is a must on your bucket list.  *Prior Warning*   the smell of the Tar Pits at times came be a bit over whelming at times.

*Note* this is a collaborative post, some of the facts I obtained from the website below.   For more information and directions please visit the website below.



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