La Brea Tar Pits


La Brea Tar Pits

5801 Wilshire Boulevard

Los Angeles, California 90036

(323) 934-7243

Written by Scott Messmoer

It's hard to believe, but there's a great spot for exploring prehistoric dinosaurs and saber-tooth tigers right in downtown Los Angeles. Rancho La Brea is a series of asphalt deposits that have trapped various types of animals, plants, mammals, birds, insects and yes, even dinosaurs, since the Ice Age in North America. Since Excavation of the pits started in 1908 and since then thousands of fossils have been taken out. Some of the fossil remains have been dated to 40,000 years ago. Scientists have removed mastodans, saber-tooth cats, giant ground sloths, individual plant cells, coyotes, horses, birds and even a pack of wolves. Whether plant life or roving animal, all the species were trapped in the sticky asphalt bog and died in the pits. Even though the area is commonly called the La Brea Tar Pits, it's not tar seeping to the surface, but asphalt. The asphalt was formed from ancient marine plankton deposits that have converted into an oil byproduct during the last 400 centuries.

Pit 91

The most productive pit of the area is called "Pit 91". Each summer, paleontologists dig fossil remains out of Pit 91 and the entire operation can be viewed by the public. In one two-month period, researchers pulled out more than 1,000 items from Pit 91. Many of the fossils taken out of Pit 91 are on display at the Page Museum, named for George C. Page who financed the construction of the museum. Visitors can also watch Page Museum scientists clean, examine and classify recent finds. Among other exhibits, visitors can try to wrestle a simulated animal bone from the asphalt to learn just how difficult it can be. During the summer months, the tar pits warmed with the weather and became oozing traps for unsuspecting animal life. Other animals that tried to get a free lunch were in turn trapped themselves. Admission to the Pit 91 area is free to the public with the observation station being open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pit 91 is located in Hancock Park, 5801 Wilshire Blvd., at Curson Avenue, Los Angeles. For Pit 91 dig information, call 323-934-PAGE.

Hours of Operation and Location

The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits is located at 5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. The Page Museum is open every day of the week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adults are charged $6; seniors and students, $3.50; children ages five to 12 are admitted for $2. Parking costs $5. The Page Museum web site is located at

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