Alcatraz and history go hand in hand. Once home to some of America’s most notorious criminals, the federal penitentiary that operated here from 1934 to 1963 brought a dark mystique to “The Rock.” The presence of infamous inmates like Al “Scarface” Capone, and the “Birdman” Robert Stroud helped to establish the Island’s notoriety. To this day, Alcatraz is best known as one of the world’s most legendary prisons.
Many people, though, are unaware of the wealth of other stories to be learned on the Island. Alcatraz is now home to rare flowers and plants, marine wildlife, and thousands of roosting and nesting sea birds. Civil War-era buildings dotting the Island give insight into the 19th century when the Island served as both a harbor defense fort and a military prison. Visitors can also see visible reminders of the American Indian Occupation that started in 1969 after the prison closed, highlighting an important milestone in the American Indian rights movement.
Alcatraz Cruises is the National Park Service concessioner of ferry service to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz Cruises hosts nearly 1.5 million visitors annually. Alcatraz Cruises designed, built and operates the
first hybrid ferry in the United States. The Hornblower Hybrid’s revolutionary design has reduced fuel consumption by 75% and has already begun to be implemented in other parts of the country.
Alcatraz Cruises provides a Cellhouse audio tour, which is available in 11 languages, including: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Mandarin, Portuguese, Korean and Russian.
Much of Alcatraz is steep and hilly, so visitors should be prepared for walking long distances uphill. The distance from the dock to the prison at the top of the Island is about 1/4 mile (.4 km) and the elevation change is 130 feet (40 meters). This is equivalent to climbing a thirteen story building. Visitors unable to make the climb up Alcatraz’s steep road can take advantage of SEAT—Sustainable Easy Access Transport—an electric shuttle that runs twice an hour from the dock to the prison building, and twice an hour from the front of the prison back to the dock. Boarding
is available on a first come, first served basis.
In addition to the popular Alcatraz tour, Alcatraz Cruises offers a combination Alcatraz and Angel Island tour. The combination tour is a 5½ hour journey.
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