Davenport Beach: The Pit

WarningHunting for sea glass at Davenport is dangerous. It’s not a place for children. For those who want to go, you should understand how dangerous tides and swells can be on the California coast, and that people lose their lives by under estimating them. You should be a good swimmer, in good shape, highly mobile in the sand and know how to escape a rip current. 

If you ever talk to people who regularly hunt sea glass at Davenport, you’ll likely hear them mention “the pit” as being one of the most dangerous spots. It’s certainly one of the more dangerous areas on the beach and many people have gotten injured there, some quite seriously. The reason people are willing to risk searching in this area is the pit happens to be where many of the bigger Davenport pieces can be found.

The pit is an area along the rocks just south of the river flowing onto the beach, where gravel seems to gather a lot of the time.  When you watch people hunting, you’ll often see them standing on the rocks overlooking the pit. They will jump down into the pit in between waves if they see a piece of sea glass, then quickly scramble up the rocks to avoid the next incoming wave.

Most of the time, the pit appears to be fine, but that doesn’t mean danger isn’t a single wave away. The dangers multiply when a bigger than expected wave hits and you find yourself in the pit. This is when things can quickly get sketchy.


People like hunting in the pit because there is often a lot of gravel, and gravel is where you are most likely to find sea glass. The bigger the gravel, the bigger the pieces of sea glass that might be found. The problem is that the waves tumble this gravel with quite a bit of force, and the pit is the area where this force can be strongest. That means if you don’t get out of the way, you can find a lot of rocks hitting your feet and shins when you get caught by a wave there. The bigger rocks can even break ankles. More and more people are wearing shin guards to help protect them when in the pit, but these rocks (especially the bigger ones) can do a lot of damage if you aren’t careful.

Flying Rocks

As if rocks hitting your ankles and shins weren’t bad enough, you also have to be careful of flying rocks. The way the pit is set up, you usually have waves coming at an angle toward the pit slightly from the north. When a big wave hits, it will usually hit the rock outcroppings and actually go over them. When this happens, you not only have water from the wave raining down on you in the pit, but also gravel that has been swept up into the wave. It only takes one time being hit by a flying rock to learn you don’t want to be in the pit when strong waves come over the rock outcroppings.

The Rock Outcroppings

As mentioned above, most of the waves come from the north which means if you happen to be hit by one, you get tumbled around a bit like being a washer, but this is usually away from the rocks. Unfortunately, there are also waves that unexpectedly come from the south from time to time, and when these waves hit, they can slam you directly into the rock outcroppings. 

For those who like to stand on the rock outcropping and look into the pit for sea glass, an unexpected big wave can sweep you off your feet onto the rocks and into the pit. I’ve had this happen to me two times (and have seen it happen to a number of others as well), and both times I left with huge bruises on my hip and thigh. 

The Pit Is Deceiving

Probably the biggest danger, especially to those who come to Davenport for the first time, is that the pit can seem deceivingly calm. It can appear like a place that’s safe to go, and thus can completely catch the unaware off guard. If you watch the sea glass hunters in the pit area, you’ll quickly notice they’ll always be quickly glancing up at the waves and they rarely turn their back to them. That’s because they know that even when things appear safe, it only takes a single wave to make things dangerous in a hurry. 

Take Care

If it’s your first time going to Davenport to hunt for sea glass, be aware you want to avoid the pit. Be cautious and spend some time learning and watching the wave sets. The tendency is to want to hop right in and begin searching for sea glass, but you can end up quite hurt if you don’t know what you’re doing. And always remember, keep one eye on the waves.

Digging in the Pit

During the off-season and during low tides, the pit can be one of the better areas to dig for sea glass. While the pit will often be covered with sand when the tide doesn’t reach it, there’s usually gravel underneath if you’re willing to dig far enough. The pit is thus a favorite spot for those digging to begin looking since it can be much more hit and miss with other areas on the beach.