mammoth tar pit, la brea

La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles, California


La Brea Tar Pits

Wooly mammoths. Sabertooth tigers. Great toed sloths. Downtown Los Angeles, California. Yup. They were there. For reals. That black stuff they pave roads with? Tar. Bunches of it right in the middle of the City of Angels. And they’re still digging out fossils.

mammoth tar pit, la brea

We stepped off our 3rd bus in less than 2 hours and stepped back in time. A family of wooly mammoths greeted us. They looked like they were playing in a large puddle, but apparently, the cow and calf were being sucked down to a grisly death by icky, sticky tar.

We joined dozens of homeschoolers from around Southern California for a free day at the La Brea Tar Pits.

dig site, la brea tar pits

Starting inside, we make the rounds of reconstructed skeletons and informational displays containing the expected information. The grounds outdoors are really where it’s at. Especially if you’ve been to as many museums as we have. Tarpit remains, surrounded by small fences, dot the park. Active dig sites feature archeologists at work.

giant sloth, la brea tar pits

Also outdoors, a winding trail displays vegetation native to the area when the mammoths and other beasts were getting stuck in the tar. I enjoyed envisioning a very different Los Angeles from either the one we know today or the one the Spanish settled.

 The fossil lab was open and many students were taking the opportunity to try out archeological skills.

fossil lab, la brea tar pits

All this walking worked up an appetite, so we followed a number of children who were rolling down a grassy hill, to a vacant bench, with some pleasant sun. We dug into our brown bags and munched chicken salad sandwiches, carrot sticks, and apples. And potato chips.

Some squirrels played nearby and cautiously approached. While I tossed a tiny piece of carrot, a young dad with two tiny daughters one-upped me by tossing an Oreo. The greedy bubonic plague carrier snatched it up and gobbled it. I guess I was told. Hence, that’s what I get for feeding the wildlife. Shame on me.

poppy, la brea tar pits

Unable to bear walking another step in the increasing heat, we hobbled to our bus stop and gratefully boarded our ride home. It was so nice not to have to fight traffic or pay for parking, especially for the beast. Our tap cards got a good workout and we enjoyed the sights from air-conditioned comfort – after the morning rush and before the after-school crowd. Lovin’ the metro.

For more info on the La Brea Tar Pits and to plan your visit:

Info on homeschool programs at the La Brea Tar Pits:

Finally, to get info on the Metro:


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