Rancho La Brea is in the heart of urban Los Angeles, thick with traffic and skyscrapers. It's hard to imagine that millions of years ago it was submerged in the ocean, teeming with sea life. When the Pacific Ocean receded about 100,000 years ago, sediments sheathed the area and fossil fuels formed below the surface. About 40,000 years ago, oil began to seep through the labyrinth of fissures and permeable rock, creating what are now known as the La Brea Tar Pits. Back then, dire wolves, sabertooth tigers, mastodons, mammoths, and giant sloths (all of which are now extinct) roamed across what became Los Angeles.The tar pits were an especially dangerous place for these animals. Called "asphalt seeps" by geologists, the oily pits captured and trapped many animals one by one. Today, these animals' unfortunate fate translates into an exceptional fossil record preserved in the pits. Archaeologists have unearthed an entire prehistoric ecosystem here, from plants to insects to camels and bison. Today, the La Brea Tar Pits remain an active archaeological site and research facility. Pit 91, the most active area, is excavated during a few months each year in the summer. More than 1,000 fossil samples are discovered here each year.
La Brea Tar Pits Information
Address: 5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
Hours of Operation: 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Mon. - Fri. and 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sat. and Sun.
Admission: $7 adults; $4.50 kids
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