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Find Sea Glass, Collect
Sea Glass, Beach Hunt!
look for in a good beach. Land features, beach layout, the water...
Now that you're ready to find a good sea glass beach, you need to know
look. On this page, we discuss where to start in identifying likely
places to find sea or beach glass.
For a beach to be an excellent source of good
quality sea glass, you'll need to consider three factors
that are discussed in the following 3-part series on how to Find Sea
Glass Beaches of your own:
If you take a look at these factors, you will be able to narrow your
search of beaches down to the most probable. But before we get into the
first factor, let's see why these three things are important when you
want to find sea glass.
If there is no source for glass to get onto the beach in the first
place, you won't find any.
Second, a certain type of land contour helps
glass get onto the beach, into the waterline, and remain there.
wave action is highly important in rounding and etching the
glass, and to have enough waves, you need to look at what produces the
It's not really complicated. And learning these few points will
definitely set you ahead of many other beach treasure hunters.
So, let's get started.
Sea Glass - SOURCE OF
Without a good source of glass, a
beach will be mediocre at best. Where the glass on a particular beach
comes from originally also affects whether it will likely be rare glass
Here we look at four sources for sea glass found on beaches:
And also discuss:
Best Sources - Find Sea Glass
Find Sea Glass - Ultimate best sources of sea glass:
The best sources of glass are those where glass was used in various
colors, in large quantities, and that were in existence over a long
period of time.
The very best sources
of this type of glass were glass
blowers' or glass makers' shops in years gone by.
were established close to a beach have produced some notable "glass
beaches" in California and Seaham
Beach in England. You may be the first to
On the other hand, don't get too excited. Such a source is very
uncommon since not many glass manufacturers or glass blowers were
located near a beach.
Sea Glass - Good
sources - These are the most likely areas and
your best bet to find sea glass:
Yes, old dump sites are hidden treasure sources.
The likelihood of finding some kind of a dump site is quite high, especially in areas
that have been populated for many generations.
Of course, when it comes
to sea or beach glass, these would be garbage dumps on or near
On beaches where there were dumps, there's quite a variety of types of
glass. This is an important factor to a collector.
Because included in the stuff dumped out are not only a large variety of
bottles, but also other items such
lamps, chandeliers, et cetera, that were
broken and discarded in the local dump.
Finding a dump site would be your best bet when beginning your search
to find sea glass and identify your own seaglass beach.
A good idea is to go to a local historical museum or library to
see what you can turn up. Ask old timers or at the nearest town offices.
Naturally, the best dump site would be a whole town site
that had been or still is located next to a beach over a period of many decades
Think about the area. Try to narrow your initial searches to finding a
beach of this type.
A well-known example of this category of beach is Fort
Bragg Sea Glass Beach in California.
So, aside from the rare
glass shop beaches mentioned above, the best
beaches to find sea glass are old dump sites (see Land Features below
for details about
Sea Glass - General
sources of good sea glass but at a lower yield:
In this category you can find really good sea glass, but the amount
you'll find will be less and the time to find it longer.
But it is
still quite rewarding.
These general sources of good sea glass would be sites that were good
for homesteads, camping, fishing, logging, and/or
hunting that overlook a beach. These will produce a fair amount of
decent sea glass.
This is true, for example, of Rosario
Beach, shown on our video Sea
Glass Saunter, which was inhabited by American Indians for
many years right up into the 20th century.
Once again, a local historic library or museum would be a great place
Sea Glass - Everyday
beaches that might have some decent finds:
Among the less valuable sites would be:
Santa Monica, California
Public beaches where
folks go to picnic, swim, tip the bottle, or just party. The variety
and the age of the glass diminishes quite a bit with this type of
beach, but you'll still find glass worth keeping if the beach has
been popular for at least several decades.
Sea Glass - Sterile
beaches - nice and clean... unfortunately!
Isolated beaches? Adventure, yes, but not
much sea glass!
Although isolated beaches are
great places for hiking
and enjoying nature, isolated beaches are
usually less productive.
Glass on these beaches might come from bottles
or hand-blown glass fish floats finding their way to the beach but very
rarely do you find much glass - or other trash. Of course, the lack of
trash and a pristine environment is what makes these beautiful beaches
attractive in the first place. They're just not much good for finding
Sea Glass - Remember, though. Think "out of the box"
Use your imagination to find sea glass. Think creatively about
what other types of beaches could give good results!
1) sites of shipwrecks or
2) beaches that lie along heavily used commercial
seaways, such as the entrance to the St. Lawrence River seaway.
In the first case, some shipwreck areas
could potentially produce a lot of sea glass.
For example, rum-bottling ports from past centuries and nearby beaches, rum-running islands, and
hideout areas may have contained hundreds or thousands of bottles.
In the second case, from beaches along heavily trafficked commercial
lanes, glass would come from floating bottles tossed overboard with the garbage.
However, it's highly unlikely that any non-floating
glass items dumped overboard would ever find their way to the
Again, for finding these kinds of beaches, a local
historical library or museum would be a great place to start your search.
Find Sea Glass -
Sea Glass - LAND
Once you have identified a
good potential source for the glass, you
need to identify certain physical characteristics that make up a good
- Poor land
Imagine this scene. A town
or highly populated camp
has been located on high
bluffs, perhaps wooded, overlooking the shore
Guemes Island, Washington
Physical features look
good here with a nice bluff but unfortunately not enough fetch (for
wave action, see below).
It's not built right on the edge of the cliffs
or bluff, but rather is situated 50-500 feet back from the edge of the
It's time to take the garbage out. There's no car or trash
collection (that's true, children, there once was a time).
How far is hubby or child going to carry the trash? As short a
as possible...but it has to be out of sight.
Perfect! We're living on
the bluffs. Pitch the trash over the bluff. Well, you can't see the
shoreline from the cabin, can you? Glass on the beach.
Or what about the gullies formed by the rains? Extending back from the
cliffs are gullies, a favorite for town dumps even in these modern
For a whole town, the garbage might go into one of the deeper
gullies, or for a camp, into the smaller gullies or over the cliff.
Along comes a torrent and we have glass washed down the gullies onto
Eventually, the rest of the trash (plastic didn't exist back then)
decomposes and just the glass and ceramic
or pottery shards are left. Bingo!
Even if the trash was dumped or buried in the back yard, it eventually
ends up on the beach. Over the years, the wave action erodes away the
cliff, the stuff on top falls down onto the beach, gets tumbled, and
there's the glass.
An example is where I lived years ago in Santa Cruz, California. There,
whole blocks of houses and roads have fallen into the surf line on East
Cliff Drive. Although I haven't had the chance to go back and look, I
definitely would consider it a very likely place to find sea glass.
that stretches away fairly flat from the water is an indication that
this may not be a good area to find sea glass.
Why? Well, let's say the source of glass was a dump, whether a large
dump or one behind somebody's cabin. How would the glass get onto the
Unless it was deliberately carried or hauled (horse and
cart) to the beach and thrown onto it, it's very unlikely
that there would be any way for the glass to migrate to the waterline.
It would just sit where it was dumped and never make it to the beach.
It would be difficult to find sea glass in this area.
So low-lying or flat land along a beach is an indication that it just
will probably not be that great a beach to find sea glass in terms of
La Boquita Beach North, Nicaragua
A beach that is too flat is usually not good for sea glass
Another drawback to flat land is this: Streams, marshes, et cetera, in
low-lying areas are slow moving, and, because the land is flat, much of
the runoff water that gets to the ocean has deposited thick layers of
sediment that may be many feet deep along the shoreline.
Glass that would originally be lying on
top or near the surface of the beach can be buried
many feet deep under the sand. That's if it even made it to the flat
beach in the first place.
For the same reason, those beautiful, long sandy beaches that are so
good for walking and enjoying nature may just not be very good for sea
glass. The low land, lots of sand, and lack of the erosion effect that
would be found on
bluffs and cliffs are factors that tend to bury the glass rather than
to uncover it.
Sea Glass - WAVES
The body of water where a good beach for glass can be found must have:
Without wave action to tumble the glass, it will never turn into beach
glass. It will remain sharp edged and shiny with little change from a
- Sufficient wave height
- Sufficient "fetch"
On the other hand, too much wave action possibly could be bad. A lot of
wave action tends to either bury the glass, drag it into deeper water,
or scatter it over a larger area.
La Boquita, Nicaragua
Wave Action is Necessary for Tumbled Sea Glass
The exception to this might be rocky coastlines with indentations where
the rocks, sand, and glass remain trapped in the coves in spite of
continuous rough waves.
Glass under these conditions does develop into
highly tumbled sea glass in a relatively short time but may be broken
up into smaller pieces than glass found under less rough conditions.
Minimum wave height of
Wave action that generally is less than about 1 foot high just does
not produce sufficient tumbling to make well-rounded frosted seaglass, even if the glass has been on the shore
for a long time.
Example: Puget Sound - We have
that problem along a portion of the beaches in the Puget Sound area of
Washington State, where the San Juan Islands and other islands and
peninsulas block the ocean swells. On the sides that face the large
open sea through the Juan de Fuca Strait, the sea glass is great. But on
the less-exposed shores, the
the glass is poorly tumbled and barely frosted
FetchMinium fetch of 25 miles
Definition - Fetch: The distance in the direction of the
wind that air or water can travel continuously without obstruction.
Waves are produced by wind blowing over a body of water. If the water
is not wide enough, waves will not be high enough. For example, a lake
that is less than 25 miles in any direction will not have enough fetch (unobstructed
water) for 1-2 foot waves to build up regularly enough to produce beach
need to take a look at the fetch
of the water off a beach to see if there is enough wave
action year round to produce tumbled glass.
Again, to produce the minimum 1-2 foot waves that are needed to tumble
glass, the fetch or stretch of open water that the wind can blow
across, usually needs to be a minimum of 25 miles. In other words, a
lake that is less than 25 miles across will not have enough wind
distance to produce enough waves to make tumbled glass.
So - Look at a map...or stand on the beach. Can you see any stretch of
water that extends in a straight line for more than 25 miles? If not,
the chances are very poor that you'll find sea glass, at least
well-tumbled, rounded, nicely-frosted sea glass.
A caveat: There are no
hard and fast rules. These are good guidelines
as a starting point. There are always exceptions to the above points.
that I've found a beach, what should I be looking for?
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