There is a beach in Fort Bragg, California, that’s famous for the iridescent sea glass that shimmers on its shores. A dump until the 1960s, Glass Beach underwent massive cleanup projects in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but the glass from bottles and other items remained, worn smooth over time as it tumbled through the ocean.
Glass Beach is one of Mendocino County’s most popular tourist spots, as it’s one of the most abundant sources of sea glass in the world. But if you want to see this California treasure, go now, because it will likely be gone before we know it.
“Everybody is taking the glass and collecting it, so there’s not as much as there used to be,” said a clerk at Fort Bragg’s tourist information office.
In fact, even though removing sea glass from the beach is prohibited, rangers from California State Parks, which owns the beach, see people taking the smooth, pebble-like glass pieces home in Ziploc bags and buckets all the time. They try to stop people who fill up canisters as large as trashcans with sea glass, but there’s only so much they can prevent, they say.
The locals will tell you that the beach used to be covered in a foot of sea glass so smooth you could walk on it with bare feet, but these days there are sections of the 38-acre beach where glass is difficult to come by. Many say their only hope is to spread the word about the beach and what’s threatening it, crossing their fingers that people will begin minding the signs that say “glass collecting prohibited.”
For many, the destruction of Glass Beach is ironic, as it was the human penchant for destruction that created the beach in the first place. Without human waste, the beach would never have existed.
For now, Glass Beach remains—and here’s to hoping we humans can keep it that way.