The residents of Fort Bragg used The Dumps frequently in the early 1900s. The Dumps were literally a series of trash dumps on land owned by the Union Lumber Company. Appliances, cars, rotting food, bottles, cans, clothes, hospital and nursing home waste were all discarded in piles up to 30 feet high on common ground in the days before recycling. Periodically, fires were lit to reduce the mass. This is commonplace in landfills across the country, but what makes The Dumps unique is the location… they lie along the beach north of Fort Bragg in ethereally photogenic Mendocino County.
The Dumps were in constant use until 1967 when they were closed by the California State Water Resources Control Board and the City of Fort Bragg. Over the next few decades, various clean-up efforts worked to reduce the human-made mountains of trash from the beach and return it to Nature. Humans did an excellent job cleaning what humans degraded, but they were unable to remove everything. After decades of being washed in the crashing waves of the sea, the entire beach is covered with sea glass. On what is now known as Glass Beach, there are some areas where the glass is knee-deep. If you search long enough, you’ll find mechanical springs and plastic, but the glass now dominates the beach where trash once towered.
As of October 2002, Glass Beach was incorporated into MacKerricher State Park. If you visit, please be respectful and do not collect souvenirs. The glass is protected under California law but being depleted rapidly by tourists. There are abundant opportunities to purchase collectibles in Fort Bragg, or capture the best memories with your camera.
There are two other former-dump glass beaches in the United States: Benicia, California and Hanapepe, Hawaii.