SAN ANTONIO – Did you know that Texas is the battiest state in the country? According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas is home to 32 of the 47 species of bats found in the United States.
From Bracken Cave Preserve to Congress Avenue Bridge, thousands from all over the world travel to Texas to experience bat-watching like no other.
So where are the best places to visit in the Hill Country if you want to see the bats? We have the best locations below:
Bamberger Ranch Preserve: Completed in 1998, the Chiroptorium is designed to house 1 million Mexican free-tailed bats. In the summer of 2002, several hundred bats began using the cave and now the Chiroptorium is a maternity colony of over 200,000 Mexican free-tailed bats.
CITY: Johnson City
FEES: $10 per person for bat flight, $15 per person for group tours of ranch
RESERVATIONS: Private tours can be scheduled in advance by visiting www.bambergerranch.org
Bracken Cave Preserve: Bracken Cave, on the northern outskirts of San Antonio, is home to the world’s largest bat colony, with more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats. Bat Conservation International (BCI) initially purchased the Bracken Cave in 1991 and now owns nearly 1,500 acres of the former ranchland surrounding the cave.
CITY: San Antonio
FEES: Membership in Bat Conservation International (starting at $45) required to attend Member Nights
RESERVATIONS: Reservations are required for BCI members
Camden Street Bridge: Nestled under the I-35 Bridge where it crosses the San Antonio River near Camden Street, a colony of approximately 50,000 male Mexican free-tailed bats roost during the summer months. Located along the Museum Reach segment of the San Antonio River Walk, the expansion joint under the concrete bridge is the perfect home for these nocturnal mammals.
CITY: San Antonio
RESERVATIONS: None Required
Congress Avenue Bridge: The Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, located in the heart of downtown Austin, hosts the largest urban bat colony in the world, estimated at 1.5 million bats. It is a maternity colony, and female Mexican free-tailed bats raise an estimated 750,000 pups each year at the bridge.
FEES: Free to watch from the bridge, Bat cruise fees range from $5 to $10.
RESERVATIONS: Reservations not needed for free viewing. To reserve space on a bat cruise, contact http://www.capitalcruises.com/
Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area: The main cavern is circular, up to 60 feet wide at the opening, and 350 feet deep, making it the largest single-chambered cavern and the third deepest in the state. About 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats inhabit the sinkhole seasonally, from May through October.
FEES: $12 for adults, $10 for senior adults, $6 for children 4 to 11, free for children under 4
RESERVATIONS: Reservations must be made in advance
Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve: This unique preserve is home to 4 million to 6 million Mexican free- tailed bats and one of the largest concentrations of warm-blooded animals in the world. The cave supports a maternity colony where females give birth to and raise their pups.
FEES: $5 per person; free for children 5 and under
RESERVATIONS: Only for special groups
Frio Bat Cave: View up to 10 million Mexican free-tailed bats, one of the largest colonies in Texas, as they make their ascent into the evening sky. This cave also provides the necessary elements mother bats need to give birth to and raise their pups each year.
FEES: $12.00 per person, $10 for children 6-10, children 5 & under free
RESERVATIONS: Must be made in advance
Old Tunnel State Park: Home to up to 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats and 1,000 to 3,000 cave myotis bats. This 920-foot, abandoned railroad tunnel was purchased by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the specific purpose of protection and management of the bats.
FEES: Upper viewing area is free. Lower viewing area is only open Thursday-Sunday evenings and fee is $5 per person
Stuart Bat Cave: Located in Kickapoo Cavern State Park, is a spring-summer home for about 1 million Mexican free-tailed bats. Bats are here from mid-February to as late as mid-October.
FEES: $3 park entry fee for ages 13 and up; 12 and under are free
RESERVATIONS: Not required for bat-flight viewing. Groups may want to consider making in advance
For other bat-viewing locations around the state of Texas, visit Texas Park & Wildlife’s website.