Parks for the People - San Francisco County Main Panel

Golden Gate NRA lands located within San Francisco tell the tale of state and military expansion into the West, men flush with gold-mine wealth shaping a coastal town, the world at war, the rise of cultural identity, and a fight for historical preservation and open space. Yet with so many stories, these park lands still offer quiet space for visitors to reflect, relax, and enjoy the beauty of San Francisco's restored natural resources.

fort point interior
After Congress passed legislation in 1968, Fort Point was celebrated as a
newly minted NHS.

Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, GOGA 6169.03

Fort Point National Historic Site

Where: Northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula under the Golden Gate Bridge
When: 1970, 1972

  • 1959: Fort Point Museum Association operated a museum and gave tours through a special use permit issued by the Army and lobbied for preservation of Fort Point.
  • 1970: Designated as a National Historic Site by President Nixon.
  • 1971: National Park Service opened the site for public tours.
  • 1972: Under P.L. 92-589, became a unit of the GGNRA.


  • Fort Point, dubbed "the Gibraltar of the West," was built beginning in 1854 to defend the entrance to San Francisco Bay.
  • Only example of a multi-level masonry fortification on the west coast.
Alcatraz cell tour
NPS Ranger Ruth Lawrence leads a youth group on tour through an
Alcatraz cell block, interpreting The Rock’s use as a Federal penitentiary.

Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, GOGA 18326

Alcatraz Island

Where: 22.5-acre island one mile from the San Francisco shoreline
When: 1972

  • 1969 -1971: The Indian Occupation of Alcatraz compelled the Nixon Administration to evaluate uses of surplus government property.
  • 1972: P.L. 92-589 included Alcatraz Island.
  • 1973: NPS tours were offered to the public.


  • Home to the first lighthouse on the west coast.
  • The Citadel, a military defensive site, played a key role in early San Francisco harbor defenses.
  • Served as a U.S. Army military prison from 1861 -1933.
  • Home to a Federal penitentiary from 1934 -1963 that housed the country's most dangerous criminals.
  • The Indian Occupation helped focus national attention on a larger American Indian Movement (AIM) for cultural recognition.
  • Most significant habitat for colonial seabirds in the San Francisco Bay.
fort Mason Piers
The San Francisco Port of Embarkation, shown here in 1915, was an integral troop and supply depot through both World Wars.

Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, GOGA 18326

Fort Mason

Where: San Francisco Marina District between Van Ness, Bay, and Laguna Streets
When: 1972

  • 1960s: Fort Mason became a focal point for Congressman Phillip Burton's urban national park movement after it was declared surplus by the U.S. Army.
  • 1972: P.L. 92-589, brought Fort Mason into the GGNRA.
  • 1976: Fort Mason Foundation created to develop the area into a cultural center.


  • Originally established as Point San Jose by Spain in the 18th-century.
  • Became a U.S. military reservation in 1851.
  • Site of 1906 earthquake and fire refugee camps.
  • Site of Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915.
  • First use of Mission Revival-style architecture by the U.S. Army in the Bay Area.
Today a destination spot for San Franciscans, Ocean Beach served the same purpose in 1919; note the windmills in Golden Gate Park seen in the distance.
Today a destination spot for San Franciscans, Ocean Beach served the same purpose in 1919; note the windmills in Golden Gate Park seen in the distance.

Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, GOGA 18429

Fort Funston and Ocean Beach

Where: Pacific Coast - Fort Funston: between the San Francisco Zoo and the Olympic Club golf course; Ocean Beach: from south of the Cliff House to Fort Funston
When: 1972, 1973

  • 1972: P.L. 92-589 included Fort Funston and Ocean Beach.
  • 1973: The City of San Francisco transferred additional land to the GGNRA following a voter-approved ballot measure.


  • Ocean Beach features the only remaining sand dune formations that once covered all of western San Francisco; provides habitat for the threatened Western Snowy Plover.
  • Fort Funston was a coastal defense site between 1917 and the Nike Missile era.
  • Fort Funston cliffs serve as habitat for Bank Swallows.
Fort Miley
This postcard from 1915 shows officers’ quarters at Fort Miley which were razed to make way for the Veteran’s Hospital there today.

Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, GOGA 35269

Fort Miley, Lands End, and the Sutro District

Where: Northwestern corner of San Francisco peninsula. Sutro District includes Seal Rocks, Cliff House, Sutro Baths, and Sutro Heights
When: 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977

  • 1971: A plan to build a National Archives facility at Fort Miley sparked the creation of the People for a Golden Gate National Recreation Area (PFGGNRA) that worked to preserve open lands.
  • 1972: P.L. 92-589 included Fort Miley and Lands End.
  • 1973: Sutro Baths purchased by the GGNRA.
  • 1975: The City transferred parklands from Fort Miley, Land's End, and Lincoln Park to the GGNRA.
  • 1976: Sutro Heights transferred to the GGNRA from the City of San Francisco.
  • 1977: Cliff House purchased by the park.


  • Sutro Heights introduced European landscape architecture to the West Coast.
  • The Sutro Baths ruins illustrate innovative engineering techniques of the time.
  • The Cliff House has been a local destination spot for over 100 years.
  • Lands End and Fort Miley preserve open space in the urban area.
Presidio of San Francisco forest
The Presidio forest, planted by the Army, offers San Franciscans an enchanting respite from the bustling city.

Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, GOGA-2565

Presidio of San Francisco

Where: 1,490 acres located at northwestern tip of San Francisco peninsula
When: 1994

  • 1972: P.L. 92-589 included the Presidio; jurisdiction remained with the U.S. Army.
  • 1989: The Base Realignment and Closure Act, P.L. 100-526, declared the Presidio excess to military needs.
  • 1994: Jurisdiction officially transferred to the GGNRA.
  • 1996: The Presidio Trust, a government corporation, was established in partnership with the NPS as joint stewards of the Presidio.


  • The Presidio was continuously occupied as a military garrison from 1776 to 1994 under the command of Spain, Mexico, and then the United States.
  • The Presidio is part of the United Nations International Biosphere Reserve.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Building 201, Fort Mason

San Francisco, CA 94123-0022


(415) 561-4700

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