San Francisco Day Three Part Two: Escape to Alcatraz

San Francisco Bay

Golden Gate Bridge

I have fallen in love with San Francisco Bay. The evening light playing on the clouds and on the water as we headed out on the ferry to Alcatraz Island took my breath away.

Alcatraz Island

This evening Traveler Five and I took the 6:40 pm tour to Alcatraz. Escape from Alcatraz is one of my favorite movies and thus I was not going to miss an opportunity to visit this old prison site turned National Park. The other major reason to visit Alcatraz is that it is a major nesting site for Western Gulls, Brandt Cormorants, and many other birds.

Alcatraz coming into closer view

The 6:40 pm tour is the latest tour offered on a daily basis. A big bonus going this late is that they open up different parts of the prison that aren't opened during other tours and, in addition, offer several different programs/discussions after the main audio tour making the last evening tour well worth it. I would suggest though, if you want this tour, you need to book about 2 months out.

Alcatraz in the evening light, click for larger view

Warden's House over the Parade ground, now a key nesting site for many birds including Western Gulls, Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, Black-crowned Night herons, and black oystercatchers.

The old power plant and water tower

Approaching the dock area, the Post Exchange/Officer's club and hundreds of nesting birds in foreground.

The sign that welcomes you. The graffiti dates back to the Native American occupation of of the island when it was claimed by a small group that claimed the island in the name of "Indians in All Tribes," in a landmark of intertribal cooperation. The occupation lasted 19 months.

Young Western Gulls

Young Western Gull

Young Western Gull

One of the proud parents

The name Alcatraz derives from its original Spanish name of La Isla de los Alcatraces or The Island of Pelicans. In the mid 1850’s the US government set aside Alcatraz Island for military uses. The a series of fortifications were erected and the facility was used as a military prison from the 1860’s until 1933. In 1934 Alcatraz became a Federal prison. It became the most notorious of all U.S. prisons thanks to many of its numerous infamous residents. Notable inmates include Robert Stroud (The Birdman of Alcatraz), Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and Whitey Bulger. But it was Frank Morris, John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Allen West who made Alcatraz a legend. The 1962 escape by Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers (Allen West was left behind though he was one of the main conspirators) was the only successful escape from what was considered an inescapable prison and was, of course. immortalized in the movie starring Clint Eastwood.

Looking down the cell block

Looking up

A cell

Inside the hospital wing. Looking at the operating table.

Inside the hospital wing, the X-ray room

The birds rule the island even at night. Top of the military chapel and guardhouse/sally port.

The officer's club with Sausalito in the background

A heron lurking near the dock

Catching dinner