Glass Beach is one of the Mendocino Coast’s most unique and photographic destinations. Located at the north end of Fort Bragg, this historic dumping site has become an incredible testament to the beauty the natural world can craft even out of refuse. Clean, safe, and fun for the whole family, Glass Beach is a must-visit destination during any Mendocino vacation.
Between 1906 and 1967 residents dumped their waste into the ocean at three separate sites. When dumping was prohibited in the late 1960s, cleaning programs took place, and the natural pounding force of the waves began to break apart the glass debris and smooth it. The land was owned privately, and in the late 1990s the owner teamed up with the Coastal Conservancy to clean the site more thoroughly. Metal waste that had not been completely broken down was removed, and paths were built. In 2002 the land was sold to State Parks, and opened formally as a part of MacKerricher State Park.
The current beaches are wonderlands of completely smooth ‘sea glass’ – shards of broken bottles, windows, and other debris that have been worn down over the decades by the rolling surf. Sea glass comes in a wide range of colors, depending on the original materials that were discarded. Over the years the glass has been slowly depleted by visitors taking it home (especially ‘choice’ colors), but the effect of a multi-colored beach remains.
This is an amazing place to visit, as it is one of the few remaining deposits of sea glass still left in the United States (most others have been completely scavenged clean). Visitors are encouraged, however, to appreciate the sea glass visually – collection by visitors over the years has already depleted the site significantly, and if left unchecked will result in the extinction of this incredible destination.
Two of the three original dumping sites are easily-accessible by a path at the north end of the Fort Bragg. The southern beach retains more sea glass than the northern beach, although it is slightly more difficult to access, with a steep descent in part of the trail. The third beach still retains the majority of the sea glass (especially non-white and green colored glasses), but is accessible only by sea kayak.