Glass Beach: a beach with millions of smooth colored pieces of sea glass | Photo: Creative Commons

The name says it all. Welcome to a California beach where you'll find millions of tiny glass pebbles instead of sand.

Glass Beach is a group of three small and narrow beaches incorporated into MacKerricher State Park, near Fort Bragg, Northern California, covered by millions of smooth colored pieces of sea glass of all sizes and shapes.

But why is there glass on Glass Beach? All three beaches are abundant in sea glass due to years of dumping garbage into near coastline areas.

In the early 20th century, more exactly from 1906 to 1967, three local dump sites accumulated glass, cans, apothecary bottles, auto tail lights, batteries, and many other car appliances.

The first dump site was created in 1906 by residents who discarded their trash onto the shore. When the mountain of garbage became unmanageable, they would burn it down.

Glass Beach: sea glass of all sizes and shapes | Photo: Creative Commons

Shaped by Waves

But when the first site was filled in 1943, Fort Bragg opened a new landfill site that remained active until 1949.

Then, a third beach began collecting the community's trash until 1967, when the city leaders closed it down.

Several cleanup programs have been undertaken over the years.

Over time, glass found on sand strips near bodies of water suffered chemical and physical transformations and eventually became natural frosted glass.

Sea glass needs between 30 and 100 years to get its characteristic shape and texture.

Shards of broken glass tumble and crash against the surrounding elements - rocks, water, sand - and their edges become rounded and smooth.

The pounding waves helped to accelerate the process.

Only later did the colored pieces become an exciting collectible from a jewelry perspective. At Glass Beach, most gem bits lying on the sand are transparent, white, and green.

But watch your feet - thousands of sharp pieces of shattered glass are still making their journey toward excellence.

You've got to put on your flip-flops before literally enjoying a walk on glass.

Glass Beach: thousands of tourists visit this place during summer  | Photo: Creative Commons

Don't Take It Home

Glass Beach is only a three-and-a-half-hour drive from San Francisco, i.e., 170 miles (273.5 kilometers) north of the Golden City via U.S. Highway 101.

However, according to the rules of California State Parks, beachgoers and the general public are not allowed to take small or large fragments of glass from these spots.

Instead, they are invited to leave the sea glass pieces where they are so that others may explore and discover this unusual semi-natural treasure.

During summer, around 1,000 tourists visit Fort Bragg's three glass beaches on a daily basis. They're also attracted by the stunning tide pools that randomly form near the shore.

Glass Beach is the perfect example of the interaction between Mother Nature and humans. The best time of the day to explore it is at low tide.

Getting to the treasure site may be tricky for the elderly and disabled, but not impossible if accompanied and supervised by adults.

There's a parking lot located near the beach trail that leads to the spot.

Top Stories

The number of seaside communities whose beaches are losing sand is growing exponentially. What are the explanations for coastal erosion, and what can be done to mitigate its devastating impact?

Welcome to the Drake Passage, the world's most dangerous sea route, home to 65-foot-plus waves. Here's why the 620-mile stretch between Cape Horn and Antarctica is treacherous and has become the ultimate extreme sailing adventure.

There is a place on Earth where the difference between low and high tide reaches 53.6 feet (16.3 meters). It's the Bay of Fundy in Canada. You've got to see it to believe it.

A fourth global coral bleaching wave is sweeping the world's oceans.