Alcatraz Pictures - Reasons to See the Famous Prison

Taking Photos of Alcatraz
©Betsy Malloy Photography

These Alcatraz pictures are here for your enjoyment, to check out what it looks like before you go - or to remember your visit afterward.

If you want to visit Alcatraz, beware. People often get duped by tour companies that say their tours included Alcatraz when all they do is sail past it. It takes planning to be sure you don't get left standing at the ticket booth, staring at a "sold out" sign. You can learn how to get there and how to avoid those pitfalls and more in the complete Alcatraz visitor guide.

The photos below start with an overview of the island and what you can see when you visit.

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Bird's-Eye View

Aerial View of Alcatraz Island
©Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

From above, you can see the layout of Alcatraz. If you drew an arrow from the lower left toward the upper right, it would be pointing at the San Francisco skyline. Tour boats arrive on the far side of the island from this view.

The exercise yard is in the middle, and the Alcatraz Lighthouse is in the upper right, next to the largest building.

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Barracks Apartments

Barracks Apartments and the Main Prison at Alcatraz
©Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

The building in the lower right is a barracks building, also known as Building 64. It was built in 1905 when Alcatraz was still a military outpost. The U.S. Army added three stories on top of an existing building to create housing for their officers.

When the military outpost became a prison in 1934, it was converted into apartments for the correctional officers and their families, but they soon moved into newer housing built on the parade grounds.

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The Alcatraz Morgue
Glen Bowman/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The morgue is located just off the walkway that takes you uphill from the ferry dock toward the main prison building. It feels a little creepy, but in fact, not a single autopsy was ever performed there.

In all, 28 eight people died on Alcatraz: eight were murdered by inmates, five committed suicide, and fifteen died from natural illnesses. All of them were taken to the mainland and released to the San Francisco County Coroner.

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Cell Block

Alcatraz Cell Block and Audio Tour Narrators
©2014 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Designed by Major Reuben B. Turner, the Alcatraz cell house was the world's largest concrete-reinforced building when it was completed in 1912.

With central steam heat, skylights, and electric lights, it was considered a very modern place. When the Bureau of Prisons took over, they made it more escape-proof with tool-proof steel bars and gun galleries at the ends of the building.

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Kitchen at Alcatraz Prison
©Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

The kitchen and mess hall are in the main cell block building. Prisoners went there in small groups. The could eat as much as they liked within 20 minutes, provided they left no waste.

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Prisoner Cells

Prisoner Cells at Alcatraz Prison
©Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Prisoners were assigned to individual cells and provided with only basics: clothing, food, water, and medical care. These cells are about 9 feet by 5 feet, and prisoners spent up to 20 hours a day in them.

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Solitary Confinement

Solitary confinement cells in Alcatraz Prison
Sabrina Dalbesio / Getty Images

The solitary confinement cells, known as "the hole," were used to discipline inmates who broke the rules. Each cell had two parts: a solid front door and a second door with bars that you can see inside. When the solid door was closed, the cell became utterly dark.

Bank robber and murderer Clarence Young proved to be such a problematic prisoner to manage that he spent 22 months in one of these cells. After he killed fellow inmate Rufus McCain in 1940, his lawyer claimed that the time spent in solitary drove him to commit the killing.

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Hospital at Alcatraz Prison
©Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

The hospital wing isn't always open, but if it is, it's well worth a look. It provided medical and dental service to inmates, prison personnel, Lighthouse Service employees, and to civilians who lived on the island.

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Warden's House

Warden's House on Alcatraz
© Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

This house once had 17 rooms and is the original home of the Alcatraz military commander. When Alcatraz became a prison, James A. Johnston was the first warden to live here. Unfortunately, the house burned down in 1970, and these partly ruined walls are all that remains.

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Alcatraz Lighthouse

Alcatraz lighthouse
Morten Falch Sortland / Getty Images

The original Alcatraz Lighthouse was the first one built on the west coast. In 1909, this 84-foot concrete tower replaced the original, which was damaged in the 1906 earthquake.

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Exercise Yard

Alcatraz Exercise Yard
©Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

On a windy day, you might feel like you're about to get blown right out to sea from the exercise yard. Prisoners held in solitary confinement only got out here once a week.

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Nesting Seagull

Seagull Nesting on Alcatraz Island
©Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

You might be surprised to find that Alcatraz Island is a bird sanctuary, It's the summer nesting-place for Western Gulls, who build almost 500 nests on Alcatraz and raise their chicks here. During nesting season, parts of the gardens are closed. But worse, so many birds in such a small area can create quite a stink.

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City View from Alcatraz

San Francisco Skyline from Alcatraz
©Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Alcatraz is just a 15-minute boat ride from San Francisco.

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