During the early 20th century residents of Fort Bragg, California chose to dispose of their waste by hurling it off the cliffs above a beach. No object was too toxic or too large as household appliances, automobiles, and all matter of trash were tossed into the crashing waves below, eventually earning it the name The Dumps. In 1967 the North Coast Water Quality Board closed the area completely and initiated a series of cleanups to slowly reverse decades of pollution and environmental damage. But there was one thing too costly (or perhaps impossible) to tackle: the millions of tiny glass shards churning in the surf. Over time the unrelenting ocean waves have, in a sense, cleansed the beach, turning the sand into a sparkling, multicolored bed of smooth glass stones now known as Glass Beach. The beach is now an unofficial tourist attraction and the California State Park System has gone so far as purchasing the property and incorporating it into surrounding MacKerricher State Park.
Photo by Travis Burke of Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California. Beautiful underwater picture of sea glass and sea anemones. Please don't be one of those people that takes a trashcan or plastic bag there to collect the glass. It's tacky and you'll get caught by the park rangers or by photographers who will apparently post pictures of you online.
The uranium oxide used to colorize some decorative wares is very low in radiation, but very high in fun: placed beneath a black light, this piece glows beautifully. It was the handle to some decorative piece. The other name for this glass is Vaseline Glass, because the company used to put Vaseline into jars of this color to attract customers.
Photo by BuzzFarmers
Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California was a dump until the 1960s but was cleaned up in the 1990s and early 2000s. Glass from bottles and other items, worn smooth by the ocean waves, color the coastal beach. You're not supposed to take the glass home, but many ignore the rules. As a result, Glass Beach may soon lose any sign of its namesake.
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.