La Brea Tar Pits: a piece of the Ice Age in Los Angeles


Los Angeles is frequently associated with Hollywood, great weather, and beautiful beaches.

What about the Ice Age? Does anybody think about that right away when Los Angeles is mentioned? Maybe a few do, but I’m not one of them 😛

Although LA is widely known as one of the densest cities in the United States, it is also famous for the La Brea Tar Pits, a gold mine for fossils from the Pleistocene Epoch, when the Ice Age took place.

The La Brea Tar Pits & Museum provides a wealth of information about the types of animals that lived in Rancho La Brea, the area now known as the La Brea Tar Pits. It’s free to walk around the area where the pits are located, along with information boards. However, entrance to the museum costs up to $12. (Those who are members of the Natural History Museum receive free admission to the Tar Pits Museum.)

Although there’s a lot of free information outside, there are many fascinating exhibits and things to check out inside, including:

  • skeletons of coyotes, a ground sloth, and the Columbian mammoth
  • a fossil lab where you can observe paleontologists prepare fossils
  • a 3-D theater that showcases Ice Age mammals (at an additional cost)
  • an atrium in the center of the museum (a perfect place to take a break if you get a little tired from walking around inside)
  • Ice Age Encounters (a multimedia performance that uses a puppet and film projections to bring the past to life)

Here are some facts about the Tar Pits Museum:

  • Over 1 million Ice Age fossils have been recovered from Rancho La Brea
  • The museum has a collection of more than 3.5 million fossils
  • The oldest fossil from the area is wood (55,000 years old) and a coyote (46,800 years old)
  • The top three most common large mammals found in the area are dire wolves (about 4,000), saber-toothed cats (2,000) and coyotes, respectively.
  • Excavations continue at Rancho La Brea, with focus on Project 23, which could double the size of the museum’s collection


Pit 91 is currently being excavated. Ice Age animals that have been found here include dire wolves, harlan’s ground sloths, western horses, and saber-toothed cats.

The La Brea Tar Pits & Museum is worth a visit if you’re in the area. There’s so much to learn and see, and it’s a fascinating gem in Los Angeles.

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