I think it’s one of the must-see tourist destinations in San Francisco – just as the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, Ghiradelli Square and the cable cars are.  Alcatraz has been closed for going on 50 years now and now is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. 

At one time it housed over 200 maximum security inmates.  It’s a 12-acre island, a mile and a half from Fisherman’s Wharf.  The only way you can reach it is by boat and it was famous for how miserable it was to stay there.  Not only the way prisoners were treated but the cold, damp condtions.

Sometimes known simply as “The Rock”, nearly complete silence was mandatory.  It featured some of the most advanced security features of its time. Some of the first metal detectors were used at Alcatraz.  Because the currents that run around it are so strong and water so cold, even if a prisoner was able to somehow escape the walls, barbed wire and the armed guards stationed in lookout towers the chances of someone surviving in the water were pretty slim. 

The name Alcatraz is taken from a Spanish word Alcatraces meaning Pelicans because of the all the birds that lived there. The first lighthouse in California was on Alcatraz. It was a Civil War fort and then later a military prison.

It was closed and its last prisoners were transferred elsewhere in 1963.

SOURCE: National U-S Park Service