Explore the Outdoors of Mendocino County
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Outdoor Adventures in Mendocino County California

Sea Glass at Glass Beach

Glass Beach - Love or Hate - Trash or Treasure?

People come from all over the world to see the glittering sea glass at Fort Bragg’s Glass Beach. Glass Beach has receive a lot of media attention in the past 10 years and visitation has increased significantly. Working in the tourism industry, I get a lot of questions and hear a lot of comments about Glass Beach. Last week, I had a few hours during low tide free and decided to go on a fact finding mission to Glass Beach.

Where is Glass Beach?

To get to Glass Beach go to Noyo Headlands Park - North Entrance off of Elm Street in Fort Bragg. From the parking lot, walk due west to the ocean. Where the paved path turns south, keep going straight on the dirt path. When you get to the ocean, you are at the main site of Glass Beach. There are no signs designating it as Glass Beach. Yes, there is still glass at Glass Beach. You will see people collecting it (and know why there isn’t as much as there once was).

Glass Beach is at the end of Elm Street in Fort Bragg. There are no signs designating it as Glass Beach.

Is there sea glass at Glass Beach?

Yes, there is still sea glass at Glass Beach. Photos on this page were taken on March 15, 2019. When visiting Glass Beach make sure that you go at low tide. When the tide is high, most of the sea glass will be covered by water.

Is there a lot of sea glass at Glass Beach?

Depends on your perspective. If I am walking on a beach and a large percentage of the gravel on the beach is comprised of sea glass, I would say that is a lot of sea glass. Yes, there is considerably less sea glass than there used to be due to the ocean moving and grinding it down and people taking the pieces of sea glass. Glancing at the glass, you will see lots of frosty white and green sea glass. Looking closer and you may find small pieces of blue and red glass and even tumbled shards of pottery.

Sea glass at Glass Beach. Photo taken 3/15/19.

Why is there sea glass at Glass Beach?

From 1906 to 1967, the Glass Beach area was a garbage dump. Residents would pull up to the edge of the bluffs and unload their trash. Fires were often lit to decrease the masses of trash. This was common practice in many coastal communities. In 1967, the dump was closed and remediation efforts took place to remove toxic materials. The sea glass was not considered toxic and was left behind to be tossed and tumbled by the sea.

What is the future of Glass Beach?

Winter storm surf is continually dredging up glass, tumbling it, and washing it ashore. This natural process will continue for many more years. However; as long as people keep taking the sea glass, the amount of sea glass is going to decrease.

Beachcombers taking bags full of sea glass from Glass Beach.

The natural beauty of Glass Beach extends beyond our sea glass and our trashy history. The rocky reefs, sea stacks, inlets and channels are beautiful and home to many creatures that live above and below the surface. It is a great place to check out harbor seals, watch for whales, explore tide pools, and see the sea.

Harbor Seals at Glass Beach

The City of Fort Bragg has developed the Glass Beach Area into Noyo Headlands Park. The park offers visitors and locals parking, toilets, and paved walkways to enjoy Fort Bragg’s Glass Beach and Coastline. My hope is that people visiting Glass Beach will take time to appreciate its natural beauty, and everyone will do their part to preserve and protect the ocean and our coastal headlands for the future.

Cate Hawthorne