Alcatraz Island offers a close-up look at the site of the first lighthouse and US built fort on the West Coast, the infamous federal penitentiary long off-limits to the public, and the history making 18 month occupation by Indians of All Tribes. Rich in history, there is also a natural side to the Rock—gardens, tide pools, bird colonies, and bay views beyond compare.
Visiting Alcatraz Island is one of the most rewarding experiences of any trip to San Francisco. However, visitors who wish to visit the prison and island grounds must secure reservations. For over a decade, the National Park Service has implemented a reservation system, which is much different from the ways past generations accessed the Alcatraz Island.
The federal prison on Alcatraz Island in the chilly waters of California’s San Francisco Bay housed some of America’s most difficult and dangerous felons during its years of operation from 1934 to 1963. Among those who served time at the maximum-security facility were the notorious gangster Al “Scarface” Capone (1899-1947) and murderer Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud (1890-1963). No inmate ever successfully escaped The Rock, as the prison was nicknamed, although more than a dozen known attempts were made over the years. After the prison was shut down due to high operating costs, the island was occupied for almost two years, starting in 1969, by a group of Native-American activists. Today, historic Alcatraz Island, which was also the site of a U.S. military prison from the late 1850s to 1933, is a popular tourist destination.