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!