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  • Writer's pictureBrian Childress

Alcatraz Island - San Francisco, California

Alcatraz Island is located in San Francisco Bay, 1.25 miles offshore from San Francisco, California. The small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison, and a federal prison, the latter operated from August 11, 1934 until March 21, 1963. The strong currents around the island and cold water temperatures made escape all but impossible.Since the late 20th century, it has become a major tourist attraction.

Beginning in November 1969, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of Native Americans, initially primarily from San Francisco, who were later joined by AIM and other urban Indians from other parts of the country, who were part of a wave of Native American activists organizing public protests across the US through the 1970s. In 1972, Alcatraz was transferred to the Department of Interior to become part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Today, the island's facilities are managed by the National Park Service as part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Visitors can reach the island in fewer than 15 minutes by ferry ride from Pier 33, located between the San Francisco Ferry Building and Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco. Hornblower Cruises, operating under the name Alcatraz Cruises, is the official ferry provider to and from the island.

When you visit San Francisco, Alcatraz is a must. Because of the history of the prison and views from the island of the city and Golden Gate Bridge, this should be on your bucket list.


If you decide visit the Island, we highly encourage you to pay a little extra and take the self-guided audio tour of the facilities on the island.

Contact Information:

Alcatraz Island

National Park Service

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Fort Mason, B201

San Francisco, CA 94123

Tickets to Alcatraz:

There is no separate entrance fee for the island - America the Beautiful/Senior/Access passes do not apply to the charge for the ferry service.

Access to Alcatraz is by ferry service operated by Alcatraz City Cruises, LLC, a concession of the National Park Service. No private craft can dock at Alcatraz Island.

To purchase tickets in advance (strongly recommended as Alcatraz frequently sells out) contact Alcatraz City Cruises, their website is The Alcatraz ferry departs from Pier 33, located on The Embarcadero near the intersection of Bay Street.



Alcatraz Ferry


San Francisco Bay


Angel Island


Prison Exterior


Outside Recreation Area


Prison Interior

(Security control room)

(Typical Inmate Cell - One inmate per cell)

(Cell door control system)

Gallery of photos

Shower Area




Gallery of photos

(Tear gas system for riots)




Isolation or “D-Block”.

Gallery of photos

Battle of Alcatraz - 1946



The Great Escape

Gallery of photos

Famous Prisoners


Gallery of photos

(Inmate George Heck Art Work)

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