At the Beach — April 24, 2014 at 5:00 am

6 Things to Know About Glass Beach, California

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If you’ve ever marveled at the simple beauty of a smooth, frosted piece of sea glass, just wait until you hear about Glass Beach. Picture a beach littered (as you will discover, that is the right word) with bits of sea glass in different colors and sizes—not just the occasional piece, but covered in bright bits of worn down glass. It’s truly a sight to behold.

California’s Glass Beach in Fort Bragg has become a tourist attraction, and for a good reason: it’s a perfect example of incredible beauty coming out of unfortunate events. Read on for 6 things to know about this one-of-a-kind beach.

The Dumps
Today, we know better than to toss our trash into the ocean (though it does still happen). In the early 20th century, however, this was common practice.

Residents of Fort Bragg, California used a local beach as an impromptu dump. Household items, glass, appliances, and even cars were chucked over a cliff, landing onto the beaches below. The beaches that received the refuse were referred to as “The Dumps”.

The Great Clean Up
Thankfully, this practice eventually came to an end. In 1967, a controlled dump was established nearby. Thus began Mother Nature’s daunting task of dealing with the accumulated debris.

More work was undertaken in 1998: the private owner of the property teamed up with the California Coastal Conservancy and the California Integrated Waste Management Board to undertake the cleanup of the beach area. It was subsequently sold to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Glass Beach is Born
In 2002, the 38 acres comprising Glass Beach were incorporated into MacKerricher State Park. You won’t find car scraps or old appliances on Glass Beach today: instead, you’ll come across an endless sea of colored sea glass.

Glass Beach actually refers to a few different beaches in the area: some are easily accessible by foot, while others require climbing down some cliffs. Others still are only accessible from the water.

Look, Don’t Take
It is forbidden to take sea glass within the boundaries of MacKerricher State Park: the glass morsels are strictly for your viewing pleasure, not for taking home as a souvenir. After all, if each of the thousands of daily tourists were to take some home, then, eventually, it wouldn’t be Glass Beach!

The Sea Glass Museum
Glass Beach attracts hundreds of thousands of travelers every year, curious to marvel at the man-made, nature-perfected phenomenon. Those wanting to learn more about sea glass can head to Sea Glass Museum just south of Fort Bragg. Admission is free, and inside the museum, you’ll find examples of the wide array of glass found on Glass Beach, plus scientific explanations of beach glass, historical sea glass stories, and more.

The Glass Festival
As if a museum wasn’t enough, the residents of Fort Bragg have devoted an entire festival towards the appreciation of sea glass! The Fort Bragg Sea Glass festival takes place on Memorial Day Weekend, showcasing work from sea glass artists and jewelers.

If you choose to visit Glass Beach, arrive early for a low-crowd experience, particularly in the summer months. Remember, there are a few different beach areas with sea glass: even beaches outside of MacKerricher State Park are worth exploring for their sea glass collections. Take a camera along to snap some photos of the sea glass, and avoid the temptation of taking a piece or two of that pretty little glass.

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