Out in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, the island of Alcatraz
is a world unto itself. Isolation, one of the constants of island
life for any inhabitant - soldier, guard, prisoner, Indian,
bird or plant - is a recurrent theme in the unfolding history
Alcatraz Island is
one of Golden Gate National Recreation Area's most popular
destinations, offering a close-up look at a historic and infamous
federal prison long off-limits to the public. Visitors to
the island cannot only explore the remnants of the prison,
but can also learn about the Indian occupation of 1969 - 1971,
early military fortifications (the first U.S. fort on the
coast), and the West Coast's first (and oldest operating)
lighthouse. These structures and the island's many natural
features - gardens, tide pools, bird colonies, and bay views
beyond compare - are being preserved by the National Park
Service which is working to make it accessible to visitors,
preserve its buildings, protect its birds and other wildlife,
and interpret its history.
Some sections of Alcatraz are unsafe to visit. Areas closed
to the public are well marked by fences or barricades. Collecting
of any sort is prohibited. Plant and animal life are protected
by law - DO NOT feed birds on Alcatraz.
The distance from the dock to the cell house
at the top of the island is about 1/4 mile, the elevation
change is 130 feet (equivalent to a thirteen story climb).
Visitors unable to make the climb up Alcatraz's steep road
may take advantage of SEAT - Sustainable Easy Access Transport,
an electric shuttle which runs once an hour from the dock
to the cell house, and once an hour from the cell house to
No food service is available on Alcatraz,
however there is a picnic area located at the dock. Food,
drinks and smoking are only allowed on the dock. (An exception
is bottled water, which is available in the bookstore on the
dock on Alcatraz.)
Outdoor interpretive walks are offered throughout the day
by NPS rangers and volunteers highlighting a variety of topics
including military history, famous inmates, escapes, natural
history and the Indian occupation. Program titles and locations
are posted on the dock and in the cell house.
Enjoy the history of Alcatraz at your own pace with this map
and written guide. Pick up the Self Guide brochure in English,
Spanish, Italian, Spanish, German or Japanese at the dock
for $1.00 per copy. A companion brochure on escapes is available
in the bookstore near the dock or in the cell house.
Attend a 14-minute video presentation of the Island's 200
year history - an excellent introduction to Alcatraz. The
theater is 50 yards up the road from the dock. For hearing
impaired visitors, the video is captioned.
Several exhibits are located behind the theater, they present
the various periods of Alcatraz's history, including the U.S.
penitentiary (1934-1963), and the military history (1850-1933).
A new award winning video (captioned) exhibit, "We Hold
the Rock", presents the story of the occupation by Indians
of All Tribes (1969-1971).
Join former Alcatraz inmates and correctional officers as
they remember life on Alcatraz in this award winning 35-minute
recorded tour. Pick up (rent) the tour inside the cell house.
Available in English, Spanish, Italian, German, Japanese,
Memorabilia, film, videos, and books about the Island's rich
history are available for sale at the bookstores near the
dock and in the cell house.