The History Of The National Park
Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), a unit of the National Park Service, was established by Congress in 1972 as part of a trend to make national park resources more accessible to urban populations and bring "parks to the people." Alcatraz Island was included within the boundaries of the new urban recreation area because of its unique natural resources and human histories.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area's 75,398 acres of land and water extend north of the Golden Gate Bridge to Tomales Bay in Marin County and south to San Mateo County, encompassing 59 miles of bay and ocean shoreline. These lands represent one of the nation’s largest coastal preserves and attract 16 million visitors each year, making GGNRA one of the National Park Service’s most highly visited units.
The National Park Service opened Alcatraz to the public for the first time in October 1973. Visitors had never been allowed on the Island before, and the response was overwhelming – more than 50,000 people visited Alcatraz during the first year it was open. Historians estimated this was more people than had set foot on the Island during all of its previous recorded history.
Over the last forty years, public interest in the Island has continued to grow. Each year, more than 1.7 million visitors travel to Alcatraz Island.
Today, Alcatraz is being preserved for the enjoyment and understanding of future generations. Former prison buildings are being conserved and seismically upgraded, and additional areas of the Island are opened to the public as safety hazards are removed. Seabirds are returning in ever-greater numbers, and naturalists carefully follow the number of eggs laid during the 8-month long nesting season.
Much of this work is carried out by dedicated Alcatraz "Volunteers In Parks" (VIPs) who lead guided walks, carry out bird census, help restore long-neglected gardens, and preserve historic structures around the Island. More work needs to be done, though, and the Park Service is always looking for additional volunteers and donors.
If you would like to help save Alcatraz, visit the Volunteer section at the National Park Service.
The history of Alcatraz continues: American Indians return each October and November to hold a sunrise ceremony commemorating their 1969 occupation of the former prison; the Alcatraz Lighthouse, oldest in the west, still sends out its beam; gulls and cormorants nest each spring on the rocky cliffs as they have for centuries; and the Island’s twin foghorns still send out their throaty roars as summer fogs creep in through the Golden Gate to cloak Alcatraz Island in mist and mystery.
Learn more about the Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Learn more about Alcatraz as a National Park Service site
Learn more about becoming an Alcatraz Volunteer