Hospital Reconstruction at Immigration Station

The Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation is soliciting support to help finish the reconstruction of the Hospital building at the Immigration Station. The foundation centers on the important role that Pacific Immigration has played and continues to play in the life of the United States.

The Hospital Building officially opened in 1910 as an integral part of the original Immigration Station. It served as the hospital for the station until 1940 and then as barracks until 1946. The building has experienced only minor alterations over time and remains most of its original features. As such, it is an excellent example of early twentieth-century hospital design and construction.

The first phase of the hospital project is the stabilization of the structure, which has suffered significant water damage and structural weakening.  By spring 2012, a new roof and gutters had been installed at the hospital, and the interior walls had been strengthened. The rehabilitation of hospital will begin in fall 2013 and last until spring 2015.  The restored hospital will feature interpretation of the medical treatment of immigrants, mainly through exhibits in one of the four hospital wards, the surgery room, the quarantine room, and the nurses’ station. Other parts of the hospital will be rehabilitated to create exhibition space, lecture and performance spaces, a café, a reflection area/library, meeting rooms, and a genealogy resource area.

The Angel Island Immigration Station continues to be a part of America’s story. The Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation hopes to bring its history to light and to make its lessons part of our national dialogue about the complicated intersection of race, immigration and the American identity.

Wintertime on Angel Island

Wintertime is a lovely time to visit Angel Island State Park. There is very limited weekday ferry service so weekends are the best time to make the trip. Once on the island you will have fogless views of the entire  bay area from various vistas along the 7 mile perimeter road. There are very few visitors this time of year so it can feel like your own personal island. About a quarter mile from the cove you can visit a rare collection of Civil War buildings at Camp Reynolds. A short hike down the hill on the gravel road takes you to a beautiful beach with a birds eye view of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is also a great place to see cormorants and pelicans.  Other seabirds common to Angel Island are California gulls and western grebes. Until the end of December the Angel Island Cafe is open on weekends offering food and beverage service, public tram tours, bike rentals and segway and scooter tours.Visit to make reservations.


Yet another often asked question with a multilayered answer! Deer arrived on Angel Island by walking, swimming, and taking the boat. Angel Island was connected to the surrounding land about 10,000 years ago, so it’s possible that the deer could have walked here. Deer can also swim and, especially during rutting season, have been seen swimming in the waters off Angel Island and Tiburon. When the military was on the island they over-hunted the deer, and eventually brought in more by boat so they could continue hunting.

Black Tail Deer on Angel Island

As there are no predators that eat deer on Angel Island, deer began to become overpopulated when the military left in the 1960s and hunting ceased. When the island’s severely overpopulated deer herd was threatened with starvation, many deer were trapped and transported off the island. Currently, park policy is to cull some of the deer population whenever it is required in order to maintain a healthy herd (although this has not been necessary for about 20 years.

Raccoon on Angel Island

Besides deer, there are raccoons, deer, voles, garter snakes, gopher snakes, racers and rubber boas, blue bellied lizards, butterflies, and a variety of birds. There are no rattlesnakes, squirrels, rabbits, possums, skunks, bears, mountain lions, bobcats or coyotes. The Angel Island Mole is endemic to the island and lives nowhere else in the world! It is a sub-species of the broad-foot mole.

Mt. Livermore!

It seems downright irresponsible not to have a blog post on Mt. Livermore… so here it is! At an elevation of 788 feet, Mt. Livermore is the highest point on Angel Island. Hiking to the peak via the Sunset Trail or North Ridge Trail is a bit of an undertaking but the VIEWS — sometimes reaching as far as Napa and Sonoma to the east, and San Jose to the south — make it well worth it for those who are up for the climb.

View from the peak looking North.

Once called Mount Ida, Mt. Livermore is officially named Mount Caroline Livermore, in dedication to the conservationist who championed the creation of Angel Island State Park. The peak itself has also undergone a number of physical changes over the years. During the Cold War, the top portion was flattened to accommodate a Nike Missile site, then reconstructed after the island was demilitarized in 1962.

A popular way to reach the summit is the Sunset Trail. After getting off the ferry, follow the paved road uphill past the Visitor Center to where it intersects with the Perimeter Road. The trailhead is clearly visible at beginning of the intersection. There are picnic tables at the top allowing you to rest or enjoy a meal while you take it all in. Many people like to take the North Ridge Trail on the way down, as it provides additional landscapes and excellent views of the Bay. Should you choose this route, simply take a right when the trail rejoins the Perimeter Road and continue until you reach the road down to Ayala Cove.

The Hospital at Fort McDowell

Built in 1911, the hospital at Fort McDowell is one of Angel Island’s most accessible and fascinating buildings. Unlike other historic buildings on the island, visitors are permitted to explore the ground floor of this century old structure, where signs of its various uses are still visible. Its weathered concrete walls convey a sense of history that encompasses both World Wars and the Cold War.

When World War I began, Fort McDowell served as a processing station for recruits and soldiers returning from overseas. During World War II, the Fort became a Port of Embarkation for soldiers being sent to the Pacific Theater. Finally, Fort McDowell was decommissioned on August 28, 1946, but was later used as a Nike missile command post during the Cold War, when nearly one hundred men were housed in the former hospital.

Crossed cannons artillery insignia on the hospital's upper facade.

Ground floor hallway.

Looking up one of the stairwells.

Angel Island’s Unsung Beaches

Those who take the time to visit Angel Island’s beaches are greatly rewarded. There are two main beaches and both are remarkable for their unmatched views of the San Francisco Bay and their uncrowded atmospheres. Many visitors don’t know about Angel Island’s beaches, have trouble finding them, or are hesitant about the walk. This blog post is here to help!

Quarry Beach lies on the east side of the island a short ways down from East Garrison. Furnishing views of the East Bay and San Francisco, this beach is exceptional due to its generally calm winds, fine sands, and a length that allows for strolling.

On the south of the island is Perles Beach. Perles is about a 1.5 mile walk along the Perimeter Road, then a few minutes down an unmarked path that begins just past Battery Ledyard. The extra effort is well worth it, as it is rare to find more than a handful of other visitors, and you’ll get a view that stretches from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate.

Ranger Casey Lee Gives Insight Into Island Living

A few weeks ago we addressed the top question asked by visitors, “what happens if you miss the boat?” (Which you can find here). In continuing our ongoing exploration of the most frequently asked questions, we caught up with Park Ranger and thirteen-year island resident Casey Lee to address the second-place island quandary — “DO PEOPLE LIVE ON ANGEL ISLAND?”

-What are some of the best things about living on the island?

The busy, sometimes crazy days talking to hundreds of people and then the contrast of the quiet, peaceful evenings admiring the view, I wouldn’t appreciate one without the other.

-And some of the difficulties?

Groceries are an epic weekly project, but the hardest thing is keeping in touch with friends who have “regular jobs” working Monday-Friday because I work on the weekends.

-Do you have a favorite fact about the island? Or an especially obscure one?

I love the diversity of the island’s natural and cultural history, there is something for everyone.  My favorite obscure facts are that the island is taller than it used to be, the top was restored to its pre-Cold War height of 788 feet, when I moved to the island it was only 781 feet tall.  The other fun fact about Angel Island is that it has one animal that is endemic to the island (it only lives here), the Angel Island mole.  It is a sub-species of the broad-footed mole and is slightly genetically different due to its long isolation from the mainland.  I’m slightly obsessed with telling people about the mole, to the point that I convinced my co-workers to call our pub quiz team the “Angel Island Moles” and made up a bean bag toss game we use at kids’ events called “Holey Moley” to help teach kids about the moles adaptations for living underground.

-Is there a particular part of the island (besides home) that you like to spend your time, or that is special to you?

Silvia’s Tree, that is not an official name, but Silvia Lange, a volunteer who led nature hikes before she passed away, introduced me to the spot.  It is along the vein of serpentine (CA state rock) on the island, one of the oldest native trees on the island grows there.  It is a coast live oak that has huge branches growing near the ground amongst the serpentine, there is moss and lichen growing on both so you can barely tell where the tree ends and the rocks begin.  I got married by this tree, so that gives it additional meaning to me.

-Is there anything you think people sometimes overlook when they come to Angel Island? Anything that you would like to share more about?

I think most people get exactly what they need from the island, there are boundless opportunities for history lovers, hikers, bikers and boaters, but my personal goal is spread the word to those that have never been to Angel Island State Park but live close enough to make the trip.  I hear from people almost every day, that they have lived in the area for many years, but never been to Angel Island before today.  Today is the day to come to Angel Island, don’t put it off, you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks Casey!

Immigration Station Open House with Professor Judy Yung — July 20th, 2013

Have you always wanted to come to Angel Island but just haven’t made the time? Are you an experienced visitor but want to bring your friends and family? Come to our Family Reunion/Open House at the U.S. Immigration Station on Angel Island State Park, Saturday, July 20! We will feature author and U.S. Immigration Station expert Judy Yung and a free open house so you can explore the immigration barracks museum at your leisure. Park staff and volunteers will be available to answer questions and provide insight about the site and its history throughout the day.

U.C. Santa Cruz professor emerita Judy Yung, co-author of Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America will provide a 30 minute talk about the Immigration Station and its history at 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., which will provide an excellent orientation to your visiting experience. Meet inside the World War II era mess hall near the stairs to the Immigration Station barracks. The special free open house of the immigration station will be available from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Stroll the grounds and learn from the hundreds of stories at the Immigrant Heritage Wall.

Please make your own transportation arrangements from San Francisco or Tiburon (there is inexpensive parking near the Bank of America lot!). — find out more here:

There is a 9:45 a.m. ferry from San Francisco’s Pier 39/41 and a10:00 a.m. ferry from 21 Main Street in Tiburon. Both arrive on Angel Island around 10:20 a.m. Once you get to the island, we recommend the pleasant walk to the Immigration Station (once you’ve climbed about 140 steps to the main road!) that takes about 30 minutes; a shuttle option to the Immigration Station is available from the Angel Island Cafe for an additional $5 per person round trip. Take the early ferries in order to get the most out of your day on the island.

You can now book the Tiburon ferry tickets, order lunches and shuttles at Angel Island Company’s website, You can purchase ferry tickets from San Francisco through the same website.

For more information, please contact Grant at or call 415-348-9200 x11. We hope to see you there!

Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights Day at Angel Island State Park

The Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights Day is based on the idea that every child has the right to experience the outdoors. This free event is put on by Angel Island State Park, and will take place on Angel Island, Friday & Saturday – July 12 & 13 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.

The press release from California State Parks explains: “There are 10 things we think kids should do before they grow up and we hope to accomplish them all on Angel Island, Friday and Saturday, July 12th & 13th. Participants will get a chance to follow a trail, go boating, plant a seed, go fishing and more during this free family friendly event. If you have a bike or fishing pole bring it along! Most appropriate for children 5-14 years old.”

For event and accessibility questions contact or 415-789-1384. For ferry information and pricing from Tiburon: From San Francisco, Oakland or Alameda contact Blue & Gold Fleet:


The number one question that rangers get asked by visitors is: “what happens if you miss the ferry?” In answering this great island quandary, the hapless traveler is presented with a number of possible solutions.

Some Answers:

The most obvious and simple of these answers is that you can swim. About a mile of water separates Angel Island from the Tiburon shore, and the coastal water is renowned for its invigorating temperature.

Another easy compromise is employment. What many people don’t realize is that the rangers and staff who work on the island all missed the ferry at some point — island resident and park ranger Casey Lee missed the boat over thirteen years ago and has been here ever since!

If all else fails, many stragglers find that missing the ferry provides for a valuable lesson in self-sufficiency and survival. The island’s rich flora and fauna furnishes a range of approaches to fending for oneself. Some attempt to fashion boats or rafts, while others choose a more Christopher McCandless inspired route. “Finding yourself” is not uncommon.

Some Serious Answers:

The reality is that people do miss the ferry every once in a while. While it can be a bummer, there are some solutions that actually make sense.

The first option would be to see if another ferry service has a later departure time. If you came over on the Tiburon Ferry, check the Blue and Gold Fleet, or vice versa.

The next option is to ask a boater on the island if you can hitch a ride. If the park service or the island staff are not making a run to the mainland, there are often private boaters who have room for extra passengers.

As a last resort, there are a few water taxi companies that will transport you for a price. This option is usually quite expensive but ensures that you will make it back home if it comes down to it.

The best defense is to keep track of time and plan your route in advance. There are plenty of friendly folk on the island who are there to help you navigate and keep things leisurely and enjoyable.

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