What Exactly are the La Brea “Tar Pits” in LA?


A great place for kids in LA’s historic Miracle Mile neighborhood

The La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles are made of natural asphalt, or “brea” in Spanish. The tar pits start from crude oil seepage to the earth’s surface. Organic marine life combines with sediment and is crushed with layers of sediment for a very long time, becoming liquid crude oil after it’s heated to high temperatures from the pressure created by heavy layers of sediment. According to How Stuff Works, it started millions of years ago when LA was originally under water. The crude oil has been seeping to the surface for approximately 40,000 years and as components of it evaporate away, a natural tar-like asphalt is what is left behind.

So why does it bubble? As explained by the museum, it’s methane. Methane is a by-product of crude oil and micro-organisms that live in it. The tar pits are a fascinating capture of history with more than one million bones representing over 231 species of vertebrates, 159 species of plants and 234 species of invertebrates according to the museum. Open 9:30am – 5pm everyday except for major holidays. Tickets are $12 adults, $5 for children for basic admission.


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