Explore the famous Glass beach in Fort Bragg at MacKerricher State Park
Probably the most well-known glass beaches in northern California is the Glass Beach at Fort Bragg. Best known for beach coming and finding the bits of tumbled glass that churned up broken bottles, car windows and parts into smooth tumbled glass and other polished materials you would love to collect. The glass beach is actually part of the Glass Beach sits in MacKerricher State Park very close to the downtown district. Instead of fine sand, you’ll find small to medium sized tumbled glass mixed in with sand that ranges in greens, off white, teal, brown and even orange tumbled glass. You’ll have a field day here collecting glass to your hearts content at the glass beach in Fort Bragg.
A history of the Glass Beach at MacKerricher State Park
There are so many strange legends of how glass beaches end up around the famous glass beaches of the world, but the glass beach history at Fort Bragg is come typical of smaller communities’ history with their waste disposal systems. After the Great Earthquake In 1906 devasted much of Northern California communities, torn buildings, materials and garbage had to be removed. In remote Fort Bragg, the easiest solution at the time was to burn or move the garbage to the ocean and the many coves in the area which became a practice from the local community with broken bottles, ceramics, glass windows and mirrors that washed out to sea and were churned and brought back with the rough surf. Things changed in the 1960s with coastal cleanup efforts were undertaken by the local communities and the Glass beach was discovered with polished glass, ceramics and other bits found in between the tumbled stones and sandy areas.
The process of glass, ceramics and other discards turning into smooth and beautiful treasures takes decades to create from the constant churning of the waves along with the hydration process with the lime and soda leeching out from the glassware. Along with that were the other chemicals and unknowns dumped on the beach sites adding to the weathering process and producing the soft and rounded glass you’ll find today around the different cove areas of the park.
With the discovery and popularity of beach combing and looking for sea glass the area brought an influx of visitors to the area to search for their own treasure finds and a lot of the glass at Glass Beach is dwindling to the quiet and not well visited cove areas that require more dedicated efforts.
Where is Glass Beach located?
Glass can be found in the many cove areas of Mackerricher State Park in Fort Bragg. The most well known is actually called Glass Beach off Hwy 1 and West Elm Street and then on Glass Beach Drive where you can park and then take a path to down to the beach area and many coves around the beaches there. There are several beaches that also are in the park that contain glass drifting around the many coves surrounding the State Park. You should wear sturdy shoes or even water shoes if you want to explore the rocky and wet areas around the beach.
Learn more about the sea glass at the International Sea Glass Museum
Located in a small building in between Mendocino and Fort Bragg, you can visit and learn more about this fascinating glass discoveries with Captain Cass Forington, the owner who has amassed over 150,000 glass pieces collected in the area and made into some fascinating objects to also enjoy. You’ll find some interesting collections of different and more exotic sea glass and crated glass into stoppers, marbles, marbles and other handmade bits from the glass. It’s a fun and small museum to explore and learn more about the history of the area, ship wreck information and even ask the captain for an inside scoop to where the best spots are still around to scout for die-hard sea glass enthusiasts.
What you can find now at Glass Beach
The best times to explore the area and beach comb for treasures are after high tide when the tides are changing and you might be able to find some of the tumbled pieces along the coves and exposed areas. Most of what is left from decades of visitors’ beach combing the area are minute glass that is so small and almost indistinguishable from the rocks and sand in the area. Something to note is that this is located within a state park so taking any natural or found materials from the beach is considered illegal, so it’s up to each individual to decide whether it is worth the risk.
What are the typical and rare colors of sea glass found?
The most common sea glass found are white and brown which came from the typical glass bottles that were produced to make soda and beer bottles at that time frame. Next were greens and blues that came from wine bottles, medicine containers and other health related bottles. The series of pinks, oranges to light greens come from Vaseline glass, perfume bottles and other colored glass receptacles used at that time. The rarer types of glass and or ceramics pieces developed from the burning of the dump sites and creating glass melting or wrapping with other objects to interesting combinations and unusual impurities of glass and objects combined.
What else to do at MacKerricher State Park
After enjoying a stroll on the glass beach, you can enjoy the rest of your visit to MacKerricher State Park to include a nice stroll on Pudding Creek beach and even walk on top of the historic trestle wood bridge with fantastic views. The trestle bridge (which there were 5 made) brought timber from the mills inland for quick export to surrounding areas and the Bay area. Now this landmark is a wonderful remnant that is fun to walk around and above. Views at sunset here is quite spectacular. There are several trails to explore at the park, fascinating tide pools to walk around and beautiful bluff views to enjoy around the park area that are breath taking to see and capture some nice photographs.
Explore around Fort Bragg area
The town of Fort Bragg is also fun to explore the town, harbor and surrounding areas. Check out our post on things to do around Fort Bragg here for more ideas of outdoor fun and recreation and fun things to do around town. You might want to base your stay in the area to explore many of the beautiful beaches, state parks and other outdoor adventure and activities in the area that are one of a kind and fun to do.
Noyo Harbor and river area
This is a real working harbor and fascinating to watch the ships come out and in with their loads for local restaurants and markets. The area is also a great spot for dining and trying out some of the local delicious seafood fish and chips, chowder and other fresh finds for the day.
Mendocino town and surrounding areas
A nice and easy from Fort Bragg is the artsy and beautiful town of Mendocino to explore the quirky and colorful town, architectural details of the old New England inspired buildings and some of the cool gardens, art galleries and centers in town. Also exploring the coastline areas and hiking trails with gorgeous cliffs, hidden coves and scenic coastal landscapes are inspiring and worth visiting for the photo opportunities alone. Check out our post on visiting Mendocino town here for more things to do and see around this wonderful community in Northern California.
Other inside tips to visiting the Glass Beach
Wear sturdy or wet water shoes to explore the rock areas and coves around the state park
Best time to explore the coves and beaches is when the tides are receding and turning to low tide and when beach combing is safer from the rough waves that frequent the area
Explore the cool tidepools, interesting marine life and fish and beautiful mollusks, crabs, colorful anemones and aquatic plants that make these fascinating little aquariums to discover
Note: Visitors aren’t technically allowed to remove glass from the beach because this is part of California State Park property so proceed at your own risk.
If you are really looking for more interesting glass to find, do so at the wonderful art galleries or even the International Sea Glass museum that you can purchase without any remorse
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