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Camping Out On Angel Island

In the heart of the San Francisco Bay, immersed in nature and surrounded by idyllic views while offering a long list of daily activities, Angel Island is far from a one trick pony. For the active nature lovers among you, there are biking and hiking trails. For those looking to relax, there are history tours and delicious Hog Island Oysters. For visitors who feel at home in the outdoors, we have a treat: Angel Island has no fewer than eleven camp sites situated on it; one of which is an ADA site accessible to those with disabilities. If you’re planning on spending some time kayaking around the island, Angel Island has designated a kayak campsite just for you.

A simple trek for experienced campers used to driving hours out into the wilds, each of these sites is easily accessible with the farthest being only 2.5 miles from the dock. These sites offer a perfect retreat for those hoping to fit a lot of what Angel Island has to offer in to one day. It is much easier to tire yourself out during the day if you know the commute home can wait until tomorrow. Better still, you have a second chance to get some more of our activities under your belt if you have the next day to enjoy yourself, too!

In addition to the convenience, the campsites at Angel island have a wide array of benefits to offer for visiting photographers. The island is the perfect spot from which to get a unique sunset shot from the heart of the San Francisco Bay. At night, the sky will be lit by the urban attractions that surround the island, making for some breathtaking night shots.

The Angel Island campsites accommodate up to eight people each and have tables, running water, toilets, food lockers and a barbeque. Please only bring charcoal or a stove, as no wood fires are allowed on the island. Additionally, we recommend that you use some method of securing your food just in case the local wildlife decide to have a midnight snack. Finally, please remember that Angel Island is a state park and as such it would be appreciated if the campsites were to be left as you would like to find them, ready for the next weary traveler.

Camping on Angel Island offers a rare chance to make a little piece of nature feel like home and to see the spectacular Bay area from the inside at night. We hope to see you traipsing along the trails with your tents sometime very soon. Enjoy your stay!

To reserve a campsite please visit: www.reserveamerica.com

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All Aboard the Ferry to Angel Island!

Situated in the center of the San Francisco Bay lies the beautiful wildlife preserve and state park that is Angel Island. In many ways, the unparalleled views and rich history put Angel Island at the Bay’s heart in more than just location. From the very top of Mount Livermore to the dock at Ayala Cove, Angel Island offers hours of fun and a number of different activities that will no doubt have you coming back to finish it all off. Whether you are feeling active, musical, in need of relaxation or just want to brush up on your history, it is easy to find what you are looking for.

“Sounds great, but how do we get there?”

Access to Angel Island is by ferry from the mainland. There are a number of different ferries available to you which set off at different times throughout the day and throughout the year. The ferry services run seasonally and from October to April service is limited to weekends only.

Angel Island Tiburon Ferry

The Tiburon Ferry takes 12 minutes and runs four weekday trips daily to and from Angel Island during peak season (May to September). The weekend ferries during this season run hourly from 10am. Last trips to the mainland are at 3:30 pm on weekdays and 5 pm on weekends, so be sure not to miss them!

If you see Captain Maggie on board be sure to give her a wave, as she is not only an experienced Captain and regular sunny face in the area, but is also heavily invested in voluntary and charity work. You can find her website and Captain’s (B)log here.

The Blue & Gold Fleet

Blue & Gold Fleet offer ferry rides directly from Pier 41 in San Francisco. That in itself is a great way to snap some iconic pictures while out on the water! The Fleet run a number of ferries, seven days a week during their peak season (end of April to October). The last ferries returning to the city are at 3:20pm on weekdays and 4:30 at weekends. These trips can take between twenty minutes to an hour to reach the island, depending on which time you decide to return.

Whichever company works out best for your trip, and however many activities you have managed to fit in, your trip to beautiful Angel Island is sure to be a memorable one. We hope to see you skimming across the fresh open water back to us again very soon.

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Fun and a Bit of History at Fort McDowell

In the late nineteenth century, the entirety of Angel Island was known as Fort McDowell — a name now used exclusively for the East Garrison buildings on the island. From1898 to 1901, the garrison was used as a detention center for American troops returning from the Spanish-American war. The first Army to be detained here was the 31st Volunteer Infantry, whose ranks had contracted smallpox whilst serving overseas in the war and the Philippine Insurrection. This caused the military presence on the Angel Island to increase significantly.

From 1901 to 1905 the East Garrison became a discharge camp for all American personnel returning from the Philippines. Here servicemen were processed, given their final pay and mustered out of service. In eight months over ten thousand troops had passed through the camp. By 1905, that number had risen to over 87,000.

In the summer of 1909, military prisoners from Alcatraz were used to increase the site of the discharge camp into a large recruit depot which was complete with a hospital, a ,400 man mess hall and 600 man barracks. This meant that the island’s headquarters had to be moved to a new eastern garrison. This continued to be used during the first and second world wars as a hub for western American military operations. In fact, more than 300,000 American troops passed through Fort McDowell on their way to the Pacific Theater of Operations in the second world war alone.

These days, Fort McDowell is put to much more peaceful uses; Situated just one and a half miles for Ayala Cove and taking under one hour to walk there. The Fort is a perfect spot to wander along to with a picnic. In addition to the picnic tables and restrooms, Fort McDowell also boasts a baseball diamond and a volleyball court. So grab your kids, invite your friends and take ‘em out to the ball park for a fun, enjoyable and historic day out on Angel Island!

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Unwinding at the Angel Island Cantina

So you’ve hiked the trails, biked the roads and taken the tram on a magical history tour. No doubt a long day of nature, pictures, and the great outdoors has left you in need of a drink and a well deserved sit down. Sounds like the perfect time to take yourself along to the Angel Island Cantina for same refreshment and relaxation.

Situated next to the ferry terminal at Ayala Cove, the Angel Island Cantina is a great spot where you can wait for your ferry back across the Bay. It offers a Latin American style menu, draft beer, and wine by the glass or bottle. In the mood for something a little fancier? Let us help you to a platter of Hog Island Oysters and a glass of sangria. Better still, with pitchers of mimosas on offer, why not try out Angel Island as a fun and unique new spot for brunch?

From May through to October the Angel Island Cantina also offers live music featuring some of the San Francisco Bay’s most dynamic music groups. This year’s line up features styles ranging from bluegrass to reggae. A full list of available on the main Angel Island site. All of the live music at the Angel Island Cantina is sponsored by the Lagunitas Brewing company and Lagunitas IPA is available on draft at the bar. Simply jump on a ferry and let your ears carry you across the Bay.

And speaking of live music and beer…have you figured out your Labor Day plans? Come on down! We’ll be rocking with a live band everyday, along with some great deals on beer and oysters. It’s a definite can’t miss! 

Whether using it as a launching point for a day of adventure or taking a load off at the end of a long walk, you are always welcome at the Angel Island Cantina. Who knows, after some great food, cold beer and live music, you might be ready for one last zip round the island before heading home. Especially if it’s on one of our Segway Tours – because your feet work hard enough already.

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All Aboard the Tram on Angel Island!

Whether a new arrival or a returning visitor to Angel Island, it is worth thinking about buying a ticket for one of the Angel Island Tram Tours. These tours offer a scenic and informative way to get a first glimpse of the island. If you’ve been here before, you’ll find your experience more enjoyable as you’re treated to a historical account of significant areas around Angel Island. Open sided and thus exposed to the open air, the trams are perfect for allowing yourself a lungful of nature and a gentle ride as you relax and let your inner shutter bug loose.

The Tram Tour follows the Perimeter Road, a five mile paved route that makes a complete circuit of Angel Island. Your adventure will take approximately one hour and has a professionally produced audio history of the island, which plays over the tram’s audio system while the tour is in progress. You’ll make a brief stop at Battery Ledyard, which was built on the site of an earlier Civil War battery. A military coastal defense was maintained at this site until the final gun was deactivated in 1915 and has since then been a significant point of interest for visitors, not least due to the outstanding views afforded by Battery’s location.

As the tram pulls up to Battery Ledyard, be sure to grab your camera as you step off to stretch your legs. From this point you can see fantastic and unique views of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco and Alcatraz from an entirely original angle – the middle of the San Francisco Bay! Don’t hang around too long though as there is still much more to see as the Perimeter Road swings around to give you coastal views of Oakland and Berkley, before starting the final stretch back towards Ayala Cove.

You can find out more about our fun and informative Tram Tours here. They run twice a day from Ayala Cove and are a part of the quirk and appeal of the Bay area. This one is definitely a tour to bump up your list if you want to be treated to unique nature, history and a relaxing day out for everyone in your party. We look forward to seeing you aboard the tram on Angel Island!

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Biking Your Way Up, Down and Around Angel Island

It’s the dream of any biking enthusiast living in a city: the opportunity to get away and ride freely without the bustle of cars or the slalom of pedestrians around you. Angel Island offers clean air, leisurely trails and breathtaking scenery; All nestled in the San Francisco Bay! Just a short way from the city, you can find yourself in idyllic surroundings with the wind in your hair as you tackle the trails of Angel Island’s cycle routes, which have been described as “easily number one in the whole Bay Area” by Bay Area Rides.

The main trail is the Perimeter Road, a five mile, partially paved route that loops around the island’s outer edge. This route is a perfect casual trail for families and those looking to feel the freedom of the open air without building up too much of a sweat. The circuitous road offers a 360 degree sweep of the entire San Francisco Bay from a unique location at its heart, allowing you a rolling panorama of one of America’s most iconic areas.

The second of Angel Island’s trails is the Fire Road, an elevated biking trail that puts you in a commanding raised position from which to view the island and its surroundings. Being a more difficult trail, this might not be one to take the younger ones along on but if you are willing to put in the hard work on those peddles, the rewards are well worth it.

The Fire Road is linked to the Perimeter Trail by a dirt road, which is around a half mile long. This takes you 250 feet above the perimeter. Of all the sections of biking trail on the island, this is definitely the toughest climb. If that doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, however, the Fire Road is easily bypassed by simply staying on the Perimeter Road when the turn off appears (and don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone!). If, however, you feel that your legs deserve a little ache then you will be met with what has been called number one in terms of “scenery per unit amount of effort” (Bay Area Rides). The Fire Road Trail is around three miles in length and is the more difficult trail of the two. If the hills are a bit too much after biking up the dirt trail, taking the Fire Road counter-clockwise will turn those climbs into a nice, coasting decline and a much easier ride. Be aware that as you reach the Point Blunt section, there will be a asking you to dismount and walk your bike.

The Angel Island Company offers a fleet of bicycles that can be rented by the hour or for a full day. You can find out more about renting a bike here.

Whether coasting along the Perimeter or scaling the Fire Road, Angel island offers a fantastic day’s of worth biking fun that is sure to impress, de-stress and hopefully bring you back for round two.

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Historical Insights at the USIS

Nestled among Angel Island’s numerous bike paths, hiking trails and breathtaking views is a unique piece of American history: The United States Immigration Station. Of course, not all pieces of antiquity are happy ones and this one offers a unique and poignant insight into one of the dark blemishes on our past.

In the Spring of 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which effectively provided a ten year moratorium on Asian labor immigration. This act placed new requirements on new Chinese migrants as well as those already living in the country, forcing them to obtain certifications for entry (and, by extension, re-entry every time they left). Moreover, the government also refused to grant State and Federal courts the right to grant citizenship to Chinese residents, despite these same courts being allowed to deport them. When the Chinese Exclusion Act was extended in 1892, it became known as the “Geary Act”, which regulated postwar Chinese immigration until the 1920s.

Surrounded by controversy, construction began on the detention facility in 1905 in an area known as China Cove. Opened in 1910 and used through the Great Depression, the USIS served as the gateway to America for migrants of 84 different countries. This “Ellis Island of the West” was different from its New York counterpart in that the majority of people who came through were from Asia; More specifically, China, Japan, Russia and south Asia (in that order).

Processing over 55,000 Chinese people alone, it became plainly obvious that the “Guardian of the Western Gate” was built specifically to blockade aliens from entering the United States. Migrants were held for months at a time, subjected to numerous interrogations meant to assess the validity of their immigration applications. Often times, interpreters at the site were not able to adequately speak the particular dialect of the detainee in question, making it difficult to pass the entry examination. Those who did pass would produce elaborate instruction manuals that coached other detainees on how to beat the inquests; anyone caught with these would have most likely been deported straight away.

Today, the USIS is a National Historic Landmark, serving as a house museum dedicated to interpreting and making connections between the experiences of those who made the journey to America over 100 years ago and the continuing story of immigration in America today. Be sure to take special note of the poetry left behind. With very little to do on the isolated island, some captives passed their time by carving their thoughts into the wood and brushing it on the walls. Many were painted over, but a few are still visible.

There are several ways to the USIS: Shuttle service is available for a fee, but there are also some great hikes and trails if you’re someone who’d prefer the more scenic route. You can find out more about the Immigration Station Museum here. For anyone wishing to learn more about our ongoing preservation efforts, please visit the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation website.

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Segway Around Angel Island!

It’s no secret that Angel Island offers some of the most spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay area, in addition to some wonderful historic treasures. We’ve already talked about many of the various hikes on the island, but if you’re a visitor hoping for a more unique experience we highly recommend checking out the island’s Segway tours!

Don’t be intimidated; these electric transportation devices will travel the paths and trails of Angel Island with complete ease! Starting at Ayala Cove, the Angel Island Segway tour will begin with some lessons on how to ride the vehicle so you can get comfortable. You’ll want to make sure all riders in your group are over 16 and meets the weight requirements. Once you get the hang of the Segway, you’ll be swept off to several points of interest on Angel Island, including outlooks of downtown San Francisco, the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Tiburon; and you’ll learn some fun facts along the way. The experience last for two hours and all you have to do is enjoy the view.

Whether you’re a tourist to the island, or a local getting a reminder of why you call the Bay Area home, the Segway tour is a great integration to any Angel Island visit. Round up some friends and take advantage of our summer special: During the month of August, when you buy three Segway tours, you get the fourth for free*. Use code SEGWAY4 when you book. See you on the island!

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Great Hikes on Angel Island

Situated in the San Francisco Bay, Angel Island is one of the best and most active ways to take in your surroundings from sea level. There are many outdoor activities to fill your day, not least of which are the picturesque hiking trails. Angel Island boasts three trails of varying difficulties. Use this as a guide to choose the best hike for you.

The Perimeter Road
Length: 5 miles
Difficulty: Easy

This trail is great for history buffs or anyone looking to take an easy walk around the island.

Starting close to the Visitor Center, the road heads west towards Camp Reynolds. A side road leaves the Perimeter Trail, heading down to the parade ground and building, which has stood on the island since 1908. Be sure to take note of the chapel, barn and officer’s quarters.

The road then turns eastward toward the eastern garrison. If you listen closely, you’ll be serenaded by the sound of seals, congregating at Point Blunt. This stronghold once trained about 30,000 men a year for duty overseas and you can still see a number of buildings here, which include the island’s old hospital and barracks.

Going north you will find yourself greeted by the old Immigration Station, which operated for 30 years before becoming a POW camp during WWII.

Finally this trail will show you Richmond-San Rafael Bridge before descending to Ayala Cove.

The Sunset Trail
Length: 4.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

This is a loop trail leading to the summit of Mt Livermore before heading down to Ayala Cove.

You will spend half a mile walking through beautiful eucalyptus, cypress and pine trees as you get your first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. Be sure to have your camera ready as you’re greeted with a breath taking panoramic view of San Francisco, seen halfway up the summit. Upon your arrival, there will be many great opportunities for picnics and photographs of the Bay in all its glory. After, you’ll begin a 3.5 mile descent on the North Ridge Trail to Ayala Cove.

The Angel Island Loop
Length: 4.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate / Hard

This trail involves walking the Perimeter Road, the North Ridge Trail and the Sunset Trail. You’ll want to allow yourself a minimum of 3 hours to complete the hike, being aware that the road will be shared with vehicles, segways and bikes.

This trail will take you amongst oak, pine, hazelnut and gooseberry as you scale to the peak of Mount Livermore, which is a great place to stop for a picnic or break. The trail continues down a ridge on the south slope, offering unobstructed views of Point Blunt. Although shortcuts may be visible, remember that the official path is there for your safety. At 4.6 miles you come across another picnic area where you can catch your breath before finishing the trail just down the road at Ayala Cove.

 

Whichever of these wonderful hikes you choose, make sure you take proper precautions with clothing, maps, cell battery and fluids; the wind can really pick up so layers make a difference and, as always, a healthy supply of water is necessary. We can’t wait to see you out on Angel Island. Enjoy your hike!

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Explore the Alma this weekend on Angel Island

The historic schooner, The Alma, will be docked at Angel Island this Friday and Saturday. Fred Siemer, a German immigrant, constructed two scow schooners. Siemer named the first after his daughter, Adelia. The second one built at Hunter’s Point was named after grand daughter Alma in 1896.

Alma’s construction was not unique, but it was unusual; her bottom planking was laid athwartships (side-to-side) instead of fore-and-aft. Called “log built” because the horizontally-laid planks were quite thick, scows like Alma traded a bit of speed and ease-of-repair for economy and strength.

Alma hauled a wide variety of cargoes during her career. She carried hay and lumber under sail, and after Peterson removed her masts in 1918, she freighted sacks of Alviso salt while being towed as a barge. Frank Resech, who purchased the vessel in 1926, installed a gasoline engine in her, and from then until 1957 her cargo was exclusively oyster shell – carried in a 22’ by 36’ wooden bin installed on deck.

A number of sailing scows ended up as oyster shell dredges. The shell was free for the taking and vast deposits lay in the San Francisco Bay. Both Resech and his wife lived and worked aboard Alma for a time; Mrs. Resech handled the steering while her husband operated the dredging machinery. During those days, Alma hauled 110-125 tons of shell per week to Petaluma, California, where it was ground and used for chicken feed.

In 1943, Resech sold the vessel to Peter John Gambetta, who continued to operate her as a dredger until 1957. When Gambetta retired Alma she was still seaworthy, but no longer profitable.

The State of California purchased Alma as she lay on the Alviso mudflats in 1959, and restoration work began in 1964. She was transferred to the National Park Service in 1978, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988.

Alma is now part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park’s fleet of historic vessels at Hyde Street Pier. She sails every season, and participates in the revived Master Mariners Regatta every May.

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