Discovered This Day: The La Brea Tar Pits
In 1769, The La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California were first noticed by a Spanish expedition. Juan Crespi, a Franciscan friar with the expedition of Gaspar de Portola (the first Spanish governor of the Californias), in 1769-70, wrote "The 3rd, we proceeded for three hours on a good road; to the right were extensive swamps of bitumen which is called chapapote. We debated whether this substance, which flows melted from underneath the earth, could occasion so many earthquakes."
The name La Brea comes from the Spanish word for "tar." A scientific publication first recorded the fossils found there in 1875, the work of Professor William Denton. Evidence exists that prehistoric native Americans used and traded the asphalt. From Today In Science History