Beaches usually conjure up images of roiling waves, vast expanses of sand, and an occasional seagull squawking as it combs the shoreline. Yet traipse over to Glass Beach, one of three beaches in Fort Bragg, California, and that image changes. Here, colorful beds of sea glass blanket the ground, its small, smooth “pebbles” bright as gemstones.
Before becoming a major tourist hot spot, Glass Beach bore a markedly different title: town dump. Up until 1967, when the North Coast Water Quality Board finally realized the negative impact dumping had on the sea, it was common for surrounding towns to toss all of their trash into the ocean. In the 1990’s, major cleanup projects removed much of the waste that was left behind, though they were careful not to touch the piles of sea glass that has accumulated for decades.
Glass Beach claims to contain the most abundant amount of sea glass, called mermaid’s tears, in the entire world. Fort Bragg’s rock formations are behind the accumulation, as they create a special wave pattern that retains much of the sea glass instead of drawing it out into the ocean. While the smoothness and sheen come from nature, the glass itself is from discarded glass products like bottles or dishware.
Here is a video of the a couple visiting the beach. The actual glass hunting starts around 3:40: