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|Although the island is only a mile from shore, there is no evidence of any successful escapes across the icy bay. The prison was the only one in the federal system that touted hot showers-a luxury designed to keep prisoners from acclimating to cold water.
A federal penitentiary until 1963, "The Rock" is now a popular tourist attraction. The 12-acre island is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is accessible only by the Blue & Gold Fleet ferry which departs daily from Pier 41 at Fisherman's Wharf.
From 1969 to 1971, a group of American Indians seized the island as a protest against the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Much of the island was destroyed during this period, but the main block, mess hall and lighthouse remain intact.
NOTE: During peak travel times, reservations must be made well in advance. Advance tickets may be charged to a credit card by phone, 705-5555. Boats depart from Pier 41. Wear comfortable shoes and dress warmly year round. This tour requires hiking and walking up stairs -- individuals with heart or respiratory problems may want to skip this excursion in favor of a bay cruise that passes by the island for photo opportunities.
For more information on Alcatraz, see the Official Alcatraz Website.
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