Alcatraz Island Gardens

The Softer Side Of “The Rock”

From the military to the penitentiary era, plants softened “The Rock” for those who called Alcatraz Island home. Through gardening, Island residents created beauty in a place focused on defense, punishment, and confinement. The families of the guards enjoyed tea parties in the gardens, and gardening became a welcome pastime. For trusted inmates, the gardens were an escape from daily prison life. Even today, the thriving gardens are a stark contrast to the somber prison.

After closure of the prison in 1963, many plants survived decades without care. These survivors are excellent choices for gardeners in the Bay Area or other similar Mediterranean climates. Since 2003, The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy has been working hand in hand with the National Park Service to restore these wonderful gardens and to share their stories with visitors.