Gate National Recreation Area
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, prisoner, bird or plant - is a recurrent
theme in the unfolding history of Alcatraz. 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 can not only
explore the remnants of the prison, but learn about the Native American
occupation of 1969 - 1971, early military fortifications and the
West Coast's first (and oldest operating) lighthouse. These structures
stand among the island's many natural features - gardens, tidepools,
bird nests, and bay views beyond compare.
is best known for its sinister reputation. Called "The Rock", "Hellcatraz"and
"Uncle Sam's Devils Island" Alcatraz is best remembered for its
29 years as the maximum-security, minimum-privilege federal penitentiary
that housed some of America's most notorious criminals.
of necessity, perhaps even political expediency, Alcatraz represents
the federal government's response to post-Prohibition, post-Depression
America. Both the institution and the men confined within its walls
are a part of this era, and in order to be studied with any degree
of understanding, it must be attended to with a focus on this time
period. Prisons are a reflection of society and the reflection offered
by Alcatraz is one of great clarity.