The Dump That Became a Tourist Site
It may not happen often, but occasionally the site of human waste becomes a place of unique beauty through the ministrations of Mother Nature. Case in point: Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California.
Fort Bragg is located north of San Francisco in beautiful Mendocino County, a place famed for being a literal treasure chest of natural riches: redwood forests, stunning cliffs, and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. If you’d visited the area in 1949, you would’ve found all of the above and…a dump.
Yes, a dump. Though today we know the dangers of using the ocean as a one-size-fits-all dumpster, Americans in the 1940s did not consider the environmental impact of their waste. They used the oceanfront dump to rid themselves of all manner of trash, ranging from general household garbage to used cars. Above, a tire still disintegrating on the beach.
It wasn’t until the late 1960s (1967 to be exact) that California realized how much damage was being done by unregulated dumping so near to the ocean. They forbade any further waste disposal and made plans to move the dump to another site, this one located further away from the shoreline. The original dump was allowed to stay as it was, moldering and forgotten beneath the cliffs of Fort Bragg. But Mother Nature had her own agenda.
Since much of the waste had come from homes in the area, bits of broken bottles made up a huge segment of the litter. After 30 years of being pounded by the surf and swirled around in the Pacific, these shards were transformed into smooth pebbles of multi-colored glass that sparkled in the sunshine.
As the seashore began to be covered in the colorful pebbles brought in by the tide, an entire “beach of glass” took shape.
Once California realized that tourists were seeking out the beach specifically to see the multi-hued beauty of sunlight reflecting on glass, as well as to collect the brilliantly colored pebbles, it was swiftly folded into MacKerricher State Park. Now Glass Beach is listed on the Fort Bragg website as a destination point for visitors in the area.
Glass Beach has been cleaned up since becoming part of a National Park. Rusty remnants of automobiles have been removed, leaving only those beautifully smoothed globes of glass (which you are no longer allowed to take home, by the way) as a testament to the dump that once was located here. There’s also an abundance of tide pools to explore.
Or you could just hang out. It’s still a beach, after all.