For 200 years and under three flags, the Presidio served as a military garrison. Established in 1776 by Lt. Col. Juan Bautista de Anza III, it was the third and northernmost of four Spanish outposts in California. In 1822, Mexico gained its independence from Spain and assumed control of the Presidio, only to abandon it in 1835 for a base in Sonoma. In 1850, President Millard Fillmore established the Presidio as a U.S. military reservation in response to the Gold Rush population boom, and the post quickly became an important extension of the U.S. military.

For its rich military architecture and important role in the development of the West, the Presidio was designated a national historic landmark district in 1962. Ten years later, Congress established the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), legislation that required the Presidio to be converted to a national park if it became surplus to the Army. In 1989, Congress approved the closing of the Presidio under the Base Realignment and Closure Act. The following year, planning for a new Presidio as a national park began with extensive community meetings and technical and financial studies. In 1994, the new Presidio General Management Plan was approved, and the Presidio was officially turned over to the National Park Service. Implementation of programs was begun to transform the former military post into a national park for the 21st century.

The Presidio Today

With scenic vistas of San Francisco Bay and more than 800 acres of open space, the Presidio offers unparalleled recreational resources, including 11 miles of hiking trails, 14 miles of biking routes, ranger- and docent-led tours, a world renowned boardsailing area, beaches, picnic sites, and walks. More than 500 of the Presidio's buildings have been classified as historic structures, and its 300-acre historic forest will be maintained as part of the cultural landscape. Future plans include museums highlighting Native American, military, California and western history.


An estimated 3.5 million people visited the Presidio in 1994, and by the year 2000, 6.5 million people will visit the park annually. Nearby attractions and points of interest include the Golden Gate Bridge, historic Fort Point, Alcatraz, the Exploratorium and Palace of Fine Arts, Fort Mason Center, Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39.


Contact the Presidio Visitor Center at 415/561-4323 or the Presidio Museum at 415/561-4331

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gene carl feldman ( (301) 286-9428
Judith Gradwohl, Smithsonian Institution (Curator/Ocean Planet)