La Brea Pitch Lake is located near the town of La Brea, Trinidad and is the world’s largest natural deposit of asphalt. There are only four other natural deposits of asphalt which are located in Azerbaijan, Oklahoma, California and Venezuela but none of those are as large as La Brea Pitch Lake. Pitch lake covers an area of approximately 110 acres, is about 250 feet deep and the formation contains around 10 million tons of asphalt.

The lake is believed to sit on a subductions zone where one tectonic plates slides under another. At this location, methane, hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide rise to the surface in the form of oil. When the oil meets open air, the lighter particles evaporate and the denser, thicker patches create a hard, semi-solid surface. In places the surface is still not solid and in other places it is gooey just under the surface.

The surface is soft and spongy with a texture similar to that of an elephant skin but it is solid enough to walk on although your steps will leave a temporary imprint in the surface.

When it completely dries, it becomes solid like a rock and it can be held in your hands.

Mining of asphalt from the lake began 1867 and continues today by the state owned company, Lake Asphalt of Trinidad and Tobago. The asphalt from Pitch Lake has been used to pave roads and airport runways around the world, including the roadway in front of Buckingham Palace in England, La Guardia Airport in New York and the Lincoln Tunnel connecting New York to New Jersey.

During the rainy season, water accumulates in the dips in the pitch, creating Sulphur pools where people soak and reportedly cure most skin ailments and joint pain.

British adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh claimed he “discovered” the pitch lake in 1595 during his search for El Dorado but the Spanish named it “Tierra de Brea”, meaning “land of pitch”.

The Dust on My Shoes

Anytime I am reasonably near the best of anything in the world, then I feel like I should make the effort to see it. 

This was the case for me when I learned that I was near the world’s largest natural deposit of asphalt. It was just an hour’s drive from where I was staying and there was no question if I was going or not. I absolutely wanted to see it because the only other similar formation that I knew about was the La Brea Tar Pit in Los Angeles, California.

Nature is always amazing to me! Most of the time it is beautiful, there are times when it is mysterious or unexplainable  and sometimes it can be frightening but there are places where it is just a little weird. Some of earth’s strangest sights that I know about are the pink lake (Lake Hiller) in Australia, glowworm caves, bio-luminescent bays and Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. La Brea Pitch Lake is another one of those places that qualifies as one of earth’s weird formations.

The last few years, I have been on a very steep learning curve about nature and wildlife. The more time that I spend in nature, the more that I discover how little that I previously knew. Nature can be beautiful, it can be unexplainable, it can be frightening and sometimes it can be a little weird but it is always amazing!