“I should throw this into the lake,” I immediately think as I cleaned up the shards of a glass jar that had slipped to the floor from my hand. It usually comes to mind when I see broken glass anywhere, though I’ve never actually thrown any of it into the water. I wouldn’t; I’m not a litterbug. I’m just an occasional collector of beach glass; the oftentimes colorful smooth, rounded corner pieces of glass that are found on beaches. My silly thought is, if I put the glass into the lake then one day it will be smoothed by waves and washed ashore for a collector to find. I don’t know how many years it would take for this process to happen so instead I put my broken glass carefully into the trash and let nature take its course elsewhere.
I’ve experienced and heard from many others that the beaches of Kenosha County, which by themselves are beautiful and not crowded, are a fantastic place to make the beach glass search. Or, sea glass – as it’s also known. And it’s not just smoothed colorful broken glass pieces that people find. Collectors are just as pleased to discover glass stoppers, marbles, pottery pieces and more along our shores.
I know this because I now belong to a Facebook group with 3000+ members who all have this hobby in common. The Lake Michigan Sea Glass Collectors group has a lovely group of like-minded people who share their finds, great places to search, and other information. You can join as well if you are a collector, or, would like to learn more to start a collection. The group is described as, the “#1 resource for tips and information on beachcombing for sea/beach glass along Lake Michigan.” The Facebook group was started by Harry Ross and, well, I’ll let him tell you how this passion began for him.
“I was introduced to sea/beach glass in 2012 after reading a magazine about it. I was living in Illinois and often came to Kenosha’s Simmons Island to enjoy the park setting and beach. So I drove up and on my first try found sea glass. I was hooked,” Harry explained. “I would come to Kenosha beaches 3-5 times a week. Fresh air, the sound of the waves, peaceful setting, finding glass and fossils dating back millions of years make this an enriching hobby.”
Harry also shared with me why Kenosha beaches are so rich with these finds.
“Early settlers of Kenosha, at what is now Simmons Island, had active sea traffic bringing goods to the growing area. Plus there were factories that formerly dotted the county’s lakefront, and early garbage dumps – all contributing to what the lake now gifts back to us beachcombers.”
From what I’ve seen, Dan Porter, another member of the group, highly enjoys collecting all the treasures given up by the water.
“We have great glass and marble beaches. I started collecting 8 years ago, beginning with glass and marbles, which morphed into driftwood, beach block (cement block tumbled by the water), rocks, and more,” Dan shared.
But if you ask me, I think Dan’s heart belongs to the marbles he finds. Why? Because the first thing he shared with me in the group was a great photo of a calendar with colorful marbles he’d found on the beaches marking each day of the month. The caption he wrote with it was, “This is why I like to search.”
So, with a wealth of knowledgeable sources at my fingertips, I decided to ask more people why they do what they do and why others should come to Kenosha to do it, too. They say it best.
Suzanne Earl: ““For me, beach glassing is a tradition. My parents always looked for beach glass and passed it down to my sister and me. It's a great family activity. It costs nothing to take your family to the beach and pick up beautifully washed glass, fossils and maybe an interesting rock or two. Kenosha really is a unique spot due to the old factories and barges that contributed to the glass and marbles washing up on our beaches.”
Aren’t a believer yet that Kenosha’s THE place for beachcombing? Let’s now hear from a couple of out-of-towners. First up: Deborah Matthews of Virginia.
“For the last two years my sister Denise Wesley has come from Grand Ledge, Michigan and I've traveled from Alexandria, Virginia to meet in SE Wisconsin for a long weekend to search for beach glass,” explained Deborah. We fly into Milwaukee, rent a car and head to Kenosha, staying at the hotel on the water so we can walk all over, including to the beach and back. We even have a favorite Kenosha Friday night fish fry restaurant, too.”
Though she’s not yet been to Kenosha, it’s in the works for Elizabeth Schackow.
“After seeing all the wonderful glass and treasures found on your side of Lake Michigan [via photos from the Facebook group], my hubby and I are planning a trip by ferry this summer just to come to the Kenosha area beaches,” Elizabeth stated. “I am new to glass hunting and enjoy walking the beaches and relaxing by the lake.”
If the praises sung by these sea glass enthusiasts about the richness of Kenosha beaches hasn’t convinced you yet to make a visit and begin the glass search, perhaps these next two will.
According to Maureen Carlson, “I collect because not only is beach glass beautiful but it is a tiny piece of history.”
Perhaps Annissa C. has the most compelling reason for someone to take up this hobby. Annissa shares, “The main reason I do it is because it is an excellent walking meditation. The sound of the water is calming. Looking for glass gives the mind one focus and other thoughts and problems disappear. Finding glass is a bonus, but the serenity of the process is why I do it.”
Kenosha. Come for the beaches, look for its sandy trinkets and treasures, embrace the serenity, and stay for the area’s food, entertainment and camaraderie. If that’s not a recipe for a great day or weekend, I don’t know what is.
I’m grateful to the members of the Lake Michigan Sea Glass Collectors Facebook group who graciously welcomed me as a newcomer, and especially thankful to those who shared their stories that appear here and in the group. It was clear from the beginning what a kind and wonderful group of people they are. Happy Hunting!