Located in Fort Bragg, California, Glass Beach is an accident of history. For years, people drove to the edge of a sea cliff and tossed their garbage over the side. The beach was the city dump. Much of the garbage was burned right on the beach, and the remainder was just left for the ocean to “take care of.” After some cleanup efforts, most of what remains is the glass. The sharp edges of the glass have been worn smooth by decades of decades of pounding by the ocean. What is left is a beach covered with smooth, etched glass. How times have changed. Our understanding of the environment has certainly matured since the days of dumping a city’s garbage on the beach and setting it on fire.
As a child growing up on the Mendocino coast, I remember Glass Beach as a kaleidoscope of color (and rusting metal in those days). Sadly, Glass beach is a shadow of its former self- a victim of its own success. While there are still thousands of pieces of sea glass, much of the colored glass has been picked clean.
Glass Beach has received national attention and is now a major tourist attraction in Fort Bragg. There are plenty of pictures and articles about Glass Beach. You can read more about the history of Glass Beach from many online sources.
Glass Beach is definitely worth a visit. It will also be picked clean in a few years. We were stunned by the number of people with buckets and rakes, actively stealing glass from the beach. Sadly, many people look at Glass Beach as a freebie, not something to enjoy and leave for others. The concept of leaving beach as a resource for everyone to enjoy is a foreign concept to some. At the rate people are taking glass, Glass Beach will soon be only a memory.
There are two ways to look at Glass Beach-
First: Glass Beach started as trash so it’s okay to take home anything you want.
Second: Glass Beach has become a public resource and we should protect it for future generations to enjoy. What began as a garbage dump has been reclaimed by nature (with some assistance) into something beautiful and unique. There are many lessons to be learned from Glass Beach: How we take care of our planet; How our perception of the environment has changed over time; And the power of the mighty Pacific ocean.
Clearly, I subscribe to the latter view. I just don’t understand the mindset of driving for hours with the intention of taking a bucket full of sea glass from a public beach. The people loading up on glass seemed totally oblivious that this was a non-renewable public resource. Selfish! Taking bags and buckets from Glass Beach is stealing.
We should be trying to preserve and manage non-renewable resources for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.
Take memories, Take photographs- Leave natural resources for future generations!
I can hardly believe the way the beach has changed–the last time I saw it there was still a lot of rusted metal around, more rust than glass, I thought. I had no idea there was that much glass to be uncovered. How calm the ocean is in your pictures! What a lovely day it must have been at that beach. Your report is right on. Maybe the town council will read it, I hope, and act.
What a shame!
I had always thought it was okay to pick up beach glass – but I have only been to beaches where occasional pieces of glass wash up amid the stone. I’ve never seen a beach so thick with glass, and I think that changes the game. Interesting to see the photos and your perspective on it.
Thanks for the comment. Normally I think it is okay to pick up beach glass or seashells. As I type this, I am looking at a jar of interesting seashells that H has collected over the last ten or so years.
There is a big difference in picking up a trinket or two, and bringing a bucket with the intention of taking home 500 pieces of glass. Glass Beach in Fort Bragg is something of an anomaly. Much of the city of Fort Bragg was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake (also famous for destroying much of San Francisco). Much of the wreckage was simply bulldozed off the cliff, and the piles of debris set on fire. Afterward Fort Bragg used the beach as a dump. Back you car up the the cliff, and throw your household garbage over the side. It has become an interesting lesson on how we treat the environment, and has transformed into a unique natural beauty.
I grew up nearby in the redwood forest and remember the glass and rusting metal as a child. Now that it’s become a tourist destination, people are driving to glass beach with buckets and rakes with the intention of taking it home.
I believe strongly that we should preserve interesting natural resources for those who come behind us (our children, for example). We were shocked by the amount of people who treated this not as a resource, but as a freebie. H, in her gentle conversational way asked a few people what they were doing with the glass they were loading into bags and buckets. Not one person had a decent explanation that pointed to anything but greed. I’m not a parent, but I want other people’s children to enjoy Glass Beach in fifty years. I suspect it will be all but stripped in a few years.
Leave footprints, take photos and memories.
Thanks again. I checked out your blog. I like it, nurse Huffy!
Thanks TS. I have a few biking and vacation adventures posted that you might enjoy, although not quite as extreme as what you’re engaging in, I think.
I hope I get to that glass beach someday, and I hope the glass is still there. In Michigan, most of our beach glass is from shipwrecks, or bottles thrown overboard by boaters out in the lake. We find a piece now and then, but have never seen handfuls like you have on your glass beach. What a sight that must be.