What is fascinating about the lake is if you were to dig a 40-foot hole it would replenish itself within a few days .There is enough pitch to last 400 years and evidence of its veins spread through out the village and roads of La Brea .
The history of the Pitch Lake goes back to 1595 when Sir Walter Raleigh visited Tierra De La Brea and used the pitch to caulk his ships .The Amerindians named the black substance (piche) and they believed the lake was formed when the gods buried a tribe for eating the sacred humming bird that possessed the souls of their ancestors. The lake was a reminder for the retribution of their evil ways and local villagers believe this legend to be true since many Amerindian artifacts has been found along with the fossil of a pre-historic sloth.
The mining of the pitch started in 1867 and Lake Asphalt of Trinidad and Tobago (1978) Ltd mines and process the raw pitch into pellets, making it suitable for export to China, Germany, United States, Brazil and England to be fed into hot mix plants to be later refined and manufactured into high grade products for the paving of roads and roofs.
The Pitch Lake is one of three natural asphalt lakes in the world — the others are in California and Venezuela — and it is the only one that is commercially viable. The Pitch Lake, apart from providing employment for villagers, attracts thousands of visitors each year .
In the dry season the heat of the sun causes the lake to be an inferno while in the rainy season one can bathe in the various pools and cracks that have accumulated rain water some as high as ten feet. It is believed that the sulphur mineral waters is a good remedy for skin diseases and has miraculous healing powers for arthritis, pimples, infections and rashes. A variety of plants, water lilies and microbial life flourish in the mineral waters of the lake . There is a newly establish Tourism Development Company (TDC) museum exhibiting artifacts, historical data, labour movement and strikes in the oil belt between1917-1937 featuring oil legends Uriah Butler and A A Cipriani.
On Sunday, Island Hikers will be touring the Pitch Lake, Vessigny beach and Siew Shiv Siewdass Sadhu Temple in the Sea. Hikers must take along slippers to walk in the Lake, insect repellents, water, sandwiches and bathing trunks.
The cost for this hike is $130. For bookings contact Mario at 749-2956.