Alcatraz Water Tower

A view of the water tower on its scaffolding support looming large over a wall.
A view of the water tower looming large over a wall surrounding the green grass of the exercise yard

Kirke Wrench/NPS

Quick Facts

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Scenic View/Photo Spot

The Federal Bureau of Prisons erected the water tower in 1940, as the island doesn't have its own water source. It rivals the lighthouse for bragging rights as the tallest structure on the island, but comes in one foot short, at a height of 94 feet. The tower was the source of the prison's drinking water, but also held enough for the prison laundry and an additional reserve in case of fire.

During the Occupation of Alcatraz, the water tower was subjected to political messages written by Native American activists. Now, it's a cultural landmark. After a recent rehabilitation, the park service restored the writing with the help of an original occupier and the daughter and grandson of Richard Oakes (a leader of the original movement). They repainted the messages to commemorate and document the cultural protest.

Alcatraz Island , Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Last updated: January 28, 2021