Only a short ferry ride away from San Francisco or Tiburon, Angel Island is one of the best ways to spend an unforgettable day on San Francisco Bay. It offers breathtaking views of the skyline of the entire city and from Mt. Livermore there is a 350 degree view of the Bay.
This gem of the California State Park system has more than 13 miles of hiking trails and nine miles of biking trails that crisscross the land. You can also hop aboard a guided historical tram tour or book a tour on Segways (electric, self-balancing personal transportation devices). In April 2012, electric scooters will also be available for tours.
Your guide describes the natural and human history of the island.
In addition to the superb recreational opportunities that include picnicking and camping, Angel Island is a fascinating microcosm of U.S. history, from the Miwok Indian times through the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, to the Cold War era.
During the Civil War in 1863, the U.S. Army established Camp Reynolds on Angel Island to protect San Francisco Bay. The island later became a garrison for infantry serving in campaigns against the American Indians in the West.
One fascinating aspect of Angel Island’s history is when it served as the “Ellis Island of the West.” From 1910-1940, it was the entry point for about 175,000 Chinese and Japanese Immigrants.
However, unlike Ellis Island’s gloried history, Angel Island had a notorious one. Most immigrants were detained on Angel Island two weeks to six months until their applications were approved. Many were denied entry.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was enforced on the island to stem the growth of Chinese immigration. Some Chinese detainees expressed their anxiety and despair in poignant poems carved on the wooden walls of the immigrant barracks as they waited to be admitted to the U.S. Many of the poems are still legible today.
Docent tours recreate what life was like for the detainees. The barracks show the racks, clothing and personal items of the immigrants, some left as if they had just stepped out for tea.
Angel Island also served as a recruitment center and discharge point for troops returning from World War I.
During World War II, it was an embarkation site for troops headed toward the Pacific and also served as a prisoner of war
Although the military abandoned the island in 1946, it returned during the Cold War to build a Nike missile battery.
If You Go
• Angel Island is reached by ferry from San Francisco, call 415-773-1188, Oakland and Alameda, call 510-522-3300.
• Angel Island-Tiberon Ferry, call 415-435-2131, www.angelislandferry.com
• Blue and Gold Fleet, 415-705-8200, www.blueandgoldfleet.com
• To reserve group picnic or campsites, call 800-444-7275, www.reserveamerica.com
• Visit www.angelisland.com or call the Cove Café at 415-435-3392 for tickets and information about bicycle rentals and guided tours.
• Angel Island’s Cove Café sells barbecued oysters, sandwiches, soups, and desserts.