Lake Erie is a bastion of beach glass.
Collecting beach glass (or sea glass, if you find it at the ocean) is meditation for thousands of beachcombers, who walk the shores hoping to find treasure: a rare pattern of sea pottery, a red sliver or purple jellybean of glass.
A couple of reasons for the multitude of glass here.
- Lake Erie has more than 2,000 shipwrecks, all of which cold have been carrying ceramic dishes and glasses, not to mention marbles in the ballast.
- For decades, Cleveland dumped its trash in the lake.
- Lake Erie is shallow, which means the waves can be incredibly rough. Those whitecaps toss pieces of glass, rubbing them on rocks and sand, frosting them and transforming them into jewels.
Marbles are a favorite Lake Erie find. They may have been loaded into the ballasts of ships centuries ago for stability. Or they could have been dumped by marble manufacturer Akro Agate into the Cuyahoga River. Or they could have been thrown into the lake by kids at Euclid Beach Amusement Park.
I’ve never found a marble. And I’m still searching for blue-and-white beach pottery. But my whole family loves to stroll, eyes on the ground, searching for a glint of blue or flash of aqua glass.
The beach glass industry has swelled in the last decade. Now there there’s a Glassing magazine and weekend festivals, loads of artisans and Facebook groups dedicated to glass. At the same time, with cleaner waterways, the amount of sea glass is dwindling – making the search more intriguing and the pieces more valued.
Where can you get lucky in your treasure hunt for glass?
You can find beach glass at any beach, but spots with pebbles and small rocks are best. Days after big storms, when Lake Erie is all riled up, are ideal. Right now, when the lake first thaws, is a perfect season. Every wave may bring in something new.
But although beachcombers like to keep their favorite spots private, so they don’t get plundered by new folks, here are a few we’ve heard are good for picking.
Columbia Road Beach, Bay Village: This quiet spot, where Columbia dead ends into the lake, is a popular spot for dogs and open water swimmers. Take the stairs down and check out the waterfall. And notice all the washed up bricks on the pebbly shore.
Perkins Beach at Edgewater Park, Cleveland: Until the pier was rebuilt, this was a favorite secret spot for Cleveland glass hunters. Check it out this spring to see if it’s still full of treasure.
Whiskey Island, Cleveland: A ton of trash washes up at this park, where the Cuyahoga River meets Lake Erie. But you can also find bucketfulls of glass. Just expect a lot of it to be “uncooked,” or too jagged and clear to really classify as beach glass. As a bonus, you can check out the gorgeous art moderne Old Coast Guard Station.
Headlands State Park, Mentor: Get a lovely view of the lighthouse at the largest beach in Ohio — a mile of sand. Hunters have found all sorts of good stuff here.
Nickel Plate Beach, Huron: The 12.3-acre beach has sand and a minor amounts of shell fragments and small stones.
Walnut Beach Park, Ashtabula: The city-owned park west of the Ashtabula River has dunes planted with low vegetation.
Conneaut Township Park: Comb the .4-mile beach and enjoy the view of the Conneaut harbor and lighthouse. The beach has the perfect pebbly consistency for collecting glass.
Want to share your favorite spot? Comment on Facebook.