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A REAL LIFE Glass Beach in California

They say that one man's trash is another man's treasure. In this instance, treasure from trash is an understatement. For residents and tourists of Fort Bragg, California, the trash that used to occupy what is now known as Glass Beach has definitely turned into treasure. The small town of Fort Bragg, located just twenty minutes north of Mendocino, is a destination worth adding to your road trip list. If you're coming from San Fransisco, it will take a little over three hours, while those coming down from Eureka will experience a beautiful two and a half hour drive. No matter the distance though, you'll be met with an incredible sight. Flickr-John K Flickr-John K

The History of Glass Beach

From 1943-1949, the beaches near Fort Bragg were used as dumping grounds for local trash. Following the devastation from the San Francisco earth quake in 1906, it became common practice to toss anything you didn't want into the ocean. The residents of Fort Bragg didn't have access to a trash service so they did the next best thing - they tossed their trash off the cliffs. Everything from car parts and glass bottles to household machinery was tossed over the cliffs to The Dumps, as they started calling it, without a second thought to what impact it would have on the environment. Little did the towns folk realize that they were the catalyst to something beautiful. Fort Brag Webpage When the locals became more earth-conscious in the late 60s, they began a renovation project for the The Dumps. Hauling away all of the remaining trash, they were shocked to discover something almost magical beneath the surface clutter. Time, and more importantly the relentless waves, had beaten the trash into beautiful, smooth glass pebbles replacing the old name with a new, more fitting one: Glass Beach.

Visit Glass Beach

It's not hard to see why you'd want to visit Glass Beach. Now part of the California State Parks System and MacKerricher State Park, Glass Beach is a thriving testament to something incredible coming from something destructive. Visitors to the beach now share in the popular past time of searching out lovely, multicolored pieces of glass worn by the waves over time. Flickr-John K Each pebble has a story to tell. The periwinkle blue stones are said to be remnants from apothecary bottles while the red stones are most likely from broken glass tail lights. The green stones are likely from old soda or beer bottles discarded with the rest of the trash in The Dumps. If you're going to visit Glass Beach today, there are a few things to note:  
  • The best picnic spot is on the cliffs overlooking Glass Beach #3 which is the beach farthest north
  • Bring your walking shoes, you'll have to hike down to the beach
  • Inside the State Park you cannot take the sea glass with you - outside of the State Park lines its OK - so make sure to bring a camera
  • There is a Sea Glass Museum you can visit
It's easy to get caught up in the horror of what Glass Beach could have become, but finding beauty in the broken things is what makes this story even more amazing. It's recycling at it's finest. Flickr-John K Check out this fun video for more info about Glass Beach: YouTube: VisitFortBraggCA Source Fort Bragg City Website Cover Photo from Flickr by John K

11 comments

  • Those are old pictures. There isn’t that much glass there anymore and the blue is rare. I think they should dump some clean glass off the cliffs for the next generation of beach goers. This is a cool place to visit.

    jacki on
  • I remember this from my childhood, maybe 50 years ago, and how MANY beaches had this phenomenon. Worrying about “protecting the glass” seems lame to me. You should be glad it isn’t polluted with human waste. In time, all that would have been reduced to fine silica anyway so getting emotional over this is silly.

    vin on
  • the glass is all collected by people, as the other comments state. Everyone takes the glass, which probably just gets lost once they get home. too bad

    JoAnn on
  • The people who take the glass think they’re the only individuals who take it. Ohhhh, just a few pieces… Shouldn’t make any difference, right?… They forget thousands of people are doing exactly the same thing.

    Scott S. on
  • There isn’t much glass or beach left here anymore big. Under tow hear,I almost drowned when the water was pulling me back into ocean.Thanks to the man that saved me.

    Shirley on


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