The Carpinteria Tar Pits are One of Five Natural Asphalt Lake Areas in the World


The Carpinteria Tar Pits at Carpinteria State Beach are located in a designated area called Tar Pits Park. The Carpinteria Tar Pits are one of five natural asphalt lake areas in the world, 2nd in size to and older than the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.

These tar pits date back to the Pleistocene Age (Ice Epoch), 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago. Evidence of imperial elephants, the giant sloth, bison, wolf, tusked mastodons and camels have been discovered in this area.


Before Europeans arrived, Mishopshnow was the name of a large coastal village of hunting people and Canalino/Chumash. Tar from this area was used for tomols (boats) reinforcing weapons and sealing water baskets. In 1769, Gaspar de Portola stayed here and, noting the handiwork of the Native Americans, named them Carpinterians. Now you know!

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a thriving asphalt mining operation helped foster the growth of Carpinteria, yielding asphalt that paved roads from Carpinteria through Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

Natural oozing tar at Carpinteria State Beach

Natural oozing tar at Carpinteria State Beach

Tar Pits Park has been preserved and restored to a natural state, including native plants, grasses, trees and shrubs. There's a bike path, some picnic tables, outstanding views, a harbor seal sanctuary and of course, the beach!

The tar oozes out of the ground along the beach, on the bluffs and around Tar Pits Park. Pretty amazing to see. The kids love it.

Things can get a little messy with tar flowing like this at Tar Pits Park

Things can get a little messy with tar flowing like this at Tar Pits Park

To get to Carpinteria State Beach, exit the 101 at Casitas Pass Road, go west to Carpinteria Avenue, make a right at the signal; then turn left on Palm.  The beach is at the end of Palm Avenue near 4th Street. Call 805.968.1033 or visit There's also parking on Linden Avenue, including a decent sized public parking lot at the Amtrak station, corner of Linden Avenue and 5th Street.