I found this historic postcard of Alcatraz Island on the Library of Congress while researching it for a recent project in California. I also sailed to the island located in San Francisco Bay one sunny day, enjoying a similar experience and perspective of the island as the crew on this boat (but getting there and back quickly thanks to the powerful diesel engines on the ferry).
It has a storied history.
The island has evolved from a Civil War-era military fort to a military prison, to a maximum-security federal penitentiary before becoming a national park. In 1969, Native Americans protesting for Civil Rights occupied the island for 19 months!
“The Rock” is now a quiet park that hosts tourists curious about its dark history, but few people realize its importance to nesting birds. Before the U.S. Government decided to build a fort and lighthouse on the island, it was a sanctuary for untold generations of seabirds. In fact, the original name of the white island was “Alcatraces” – Spanish for the “strange birds” they saw there.
Today, the birds have returned, and tourists can see Western gulls, cormorants and pigeon guillemots, and waterbirds such as snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons.
Click here to learn more about how the National Park Service has restored and shares Alcatraz Island with the public.