Why do we call asphalt “pitch”? And where is the largest asphalt lake in the world?

The Pitch Lake is the largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world, estimated to contain 10 million tons. It is located in La Brea in southwest Trinidad, within the Siparia Regional Corporation. The lake covers about 100 acres and is reported to be 250 feet deep

The Pitch Lake has fascinated Western explorers and scientists, as well as attracting tourists, since its re-discovery by Sir Walter Raleigh in his expedition there in 1595. (The native Indians knew about it and showed it to him.) Raleigh himself found immediate use for the asphalt to caulk his ship. He referred to the pitch as “most excellent… It melteth not with the sun as the pitch of Norway”. Since its re-discovery, there have been numerous research investigations into the use and chemical composition of this material. There have been countless theories, postulations, and conclusions as to the size, source, and origin of the asphalt.

In 1887, Amzi Barber, an American businessman known as “The Asphalt King”, secured a 42-year monopoly concession from the British Government for the Pitch Lake for his company, Barber Asphalt Paving Co. It was from this source that many of the first asphalt roads of New York City, Washington D.C., and other Eastern U.S. cities were paved.

It was the natives, the Amerindians, that showed Sir Walter Raleigh where the lake was. They were the ones who named the black substance piche, which over time became to be known as pitch. The natives had their own story about the origin of the lake. The story goes that the indigenous people were celebrating a victory over a rival tribe when they got carried away in their celebration. They proceeded to cook and eat the sacred hummingbird which they believed possessed the souls of their ancestors. According to legend their winged God punished them by opening the earth and conjuring the pitch lake to swallow the entire village, and the lake became a permanent stain and a reminder of their sins. The local villages believe this legend due to the many Amerindian artifacts and a cranium that have been discovered, preserved, in the pitch.

So there you have it!   Today asphalt is widely used in road surfacing, pavements, sports facilities, driveways and many other uses.   We, at Bradley Asphalt are proud to use this versatile, natural, durable and recyclable product.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us for any further information you require:

Denver Office: 303-467-0631

Colorado Springs/Monument Office: 719-481-9411