Sea Glass Beach Fort Bragg California

While not technically a National Park (there are a lot of rock outcroppings along the shoreline which are all part of the California Coastal National Monument), Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, CA is definitely worth a visit. It’s not often that you see a beach that is almost entirely made of sea glass (also called beach glass, mermaids tears, lucky glass, ocean glass and sea gems) that is several inches thick in some places:

a beach made up almost entirely of sea glass in Fort Bragg, CA

Most people assume that sea glass comes from glass garbage dumped out at sea that eventually makes its way to the shore. In many cases, this is how sea glass arrives on the beach, but not in the case of Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. Instead, the glass has been there for up to 100 years getting churned by ocean waves and sand.

Towns along the sea coast used to dump all their garbage into the oceans. In most areas, the tide would come in and sweep all the garbage out to sea, but the rock formations at Fort Bragg create a unique wave pattern that kept everything on the beach. Basically, all the glass garbage that was dumped in the Fort Bragg dumps from 1906 – 1967 remains where it was dumped and over the years the sand and tides have smoothed the sharp glass into smooth, rounded sea glass pebbles of many different colors making the entire beach a “glass beach.” It also has resulted in Fort Bragg having the highest concentration of sea glass in the world.

beach glass from Glass Beach in Fort Bragg California

It’s a pretty incredible sight with the sea glass several inches thick in some areas. It also makes for excellent foreground photographs of the California Coastal National Monument outcroppings just off the coast:

seaglass beach

Here is a short video I took at Glass Beach:

There are actually 3 Glass Beaches in Fort Bragg. The one that is most famous is part of MacKerricher State Park (CA) and was the Fort Bragg dump from 1949 – 1967. I took these photos and video at the 1943 – 1949 dump site which is just south of MacKerricher State Park. There is another dump site that ran from 1906 – 1943, but it’s only accessible by sea kayak.

For those interested in directions how to get to 1943 – 1949 dump site, there is a Glass Beach Museum on highway 1 toward the south end of Fort Bragg where you can get a map of all the glass beaches in Fort Bragg (and see an amazing display of sea glass).

11 Replies to “Sea Glass Beach Fort Bragg California”

  1. It’s worthwhile to mention the glass is no longer allowed to be taken from the beach. Some more history from Wikipedia:
    In 2002, the California State Park system purchased the 38-acre (150,000 m2) Glass Beach property, and after cleanup it was incorporated into MacKerricher State Park. Though not officially permitted, many still scour the beach for interesting curios to take home as souvenirs. The glass is no longer allowed to be taken from the beach. When the beach was cleaned up people were quickly attracted to the beautiful glass so they took it. Before the beach could be destroyed the California Parks & Recreation Dept. took over the beach.

  2. Growing up there, I used to visit that beach a lot. There used to be more colors but almost all the purple and blue glass has since been taken for souvenirs.

    1. Although it isn’t officially open yet, you can get there easily these days…but go quickly. The glass is quickly disappearing…

        1. It is now much easier to get to the beach now that they have opened the area. Since it now is easy for everyone to find and get to, more people are taking the glass that is there…

  3. I will be visiting Ft. Bragg towards the end of June,2015, to do some filming of the beaches for an indie documentary on the subject of sea glass. I’m hoping to interview some local individuals that feel passionately about sea glass from opposite perspectives of whether or not it should be collected or allowed to remain.

  4. When is the hottest time of the year to visit Sea Glass Beach/Ft Bragg? I’m planning a trip and would like to go when the weather is the warmest.
    Thank you,

    1. Summer would be the most likely time to get a warm day, but it’s also the time of year when there can be a lot of fog which will keep things cool.

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