Texas has thirty-three of the known forty-seven known species of bats living in the state. Texas has more bat species than any other state.
These numbers vary from a single specimen to the largest colonies in the world. Texas is one of the best places to view these exciting and misunderstood mammals. Here is some helpful information on when to see them, where to see them, and how to stay safe while watching bats in Texas,
This Texas Parks and Wildlife video has some fantastic places to view bats in Texas.
1. South Congress Bridge
Also known as Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, this is a great spot in downtown Austin to see a large colony of
Every evening between May and September, locals and tourists from around the world gather to watch Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge and take flight into the Texas sky.
This is the largest urban colony of bats in the world. It is a maternity colony, so it comprises female bats that give birth to around 750,000 pups yearly under the bridge. An estimated 1.5 million bats make for quite the spectacle as they take off the fields south of Austin.
In a feeding frenzy, these bats have been clocked at 60 mph up to 2 miles high. They are now treasured for their bug-eating prowess and can eat 20,000 to 30,000 insects in one feeding.
Get there around 5:30–6:30 pm for the best parking and viewing spot.
The bats can be seen all year round. There is an observation area at Austin American-Statesman’s Bat Observation Area. The observation area is open year-round, with volunteers available on weekend evenings from May through September. There is a grassy area for viewing here. Remember to bring a blanket for sitting on and a hat to protect your head from bat droppings.
You can get an excellent view from the bridge as you stand and watch hundreds of thousands of Mexican Free-tailed Bats ascend into the evening sky in thick columns.
You can also watch the bats from Lady Bird Lake by taking a boat tour or renting a kayak, standup paddleboard, canoe, or water bike from the following businesses in Congress Bridge.
Some great information on the daily accounting of the bat’s activity can be found on the Austin Bat Refuge website. There are some great tips on visiting the area.
2. Round Rock
It is quickly becoming a popular attraction among people wanting to find an alternative to the large crowds just up the road at Congress Ave. Bridge, this colony of Mexican Free-tailed Bats, is another Texas find.
The calm and quirky thing about this location is you have to sit at the Napa Auto Parts store across from the overpass to watch them, and it’s worth it.
This is fast becoming another popular bat attraction in Texas, but please keep in mind that although bats are protected in Texas, this is an unprotected urban area, so be sure to make all plans to be as safe as possible while watching the emergence, especially if you have children.
North of Austin, Texas, on I35, you can see the bats. Below are the details.
The bats can be seen in this area from March through November at sunset. Come a little early for good parking and the best viewing spots.
The McNeil overpass bridge on I-35 in Round Rock is the place to see them. The area is 21 miles northeast of Austin and the famous Congress Ave. Bridge bats.
Parking in the Napa Auto Parts Store parking lot is allowed, but please park after store hours. (7 pm)
Bring blankets or chairs and sit on the grass at the Napa store. Management of the Napa store says they are okay with this.
Please watch your children, as this is a busy intersection. Pets are not recommended and do not go under the overpass. It is the bat’s home, and it is a bustling intersection.
The rooftop at famous restaurant URBAN opened its rooftop to bat watching at sunset in Round Rock. They are over 21 years establishment. They are open Thursday through Sunday from 5 pm-11 pm, and this would be an excellent place for a dinner or date night and, of course, to watch the bats.
The Goodwater Master Naturalists are at the Napa on Fridays and sometimes have activities for kids with bat information. If you have questions about the bats, seek out these members.
3. Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve
Located in Mason County, the colony here is a maternity colony. Due to this, you must be careful not to disturb the bats.
In 1907 W. Phillip Eckert bought the property, and this location contained a cave. This cave houses a seasonal population of female Mexican free-tailed bats.
He farmed the bat droppings, called guano, and sold them to his neighbors as fertilizer for their crops. This turned into bat conservation and continued through two generations until recent years when his grandchildren donated the cave to The Nature Conservancy in honor of him and their father, Lee.
The Nature Conservancy continues to manage the cave and surrounding area to ensure that the bats stay healthy and thrive for generations to come. Four million female bats, most pregnant, arrive in May and give birth in June and July to a single pup. This colony is one of the largest maternity colonies in the world.
The best time to see the bats is between 6 and 9 pm. The best months to see them are May through October. The preserve opens between Thursday and Sunday.
The bats can be seen at the Eckert James preserve, situated close to Mason near Highway 29.
More details can be found here.
4. Bamberger Ranch Preserve
David Bamberger volunteered for years at Bat Conservation’s Bracken cave. This led to his inspired, successful attempt at building the world’s first human-made bat habitat.
Called a chiroptorium, it took five years to build, but now today, a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats with upwards of 300,000 bats. With the addition of pups in a season, this number can double. This bat location is a Texas watch site you’ll want to see.
Bamberger ranch preserve is a private ranch, and private tours must be scheduled in advance, with these tours starting at $10.
Tours at the ranch are late in the summer. This allows viewing the new babies flying and when the bat numbers are at their highest.
For more information, go to Bamberger Ranch.
5. Bracken Cave Preserve
Bracken cave preserve is one of North America’s most famous spots to view bats. The location is the summer home to the world’s largest population of Mexican Free-tailed Bats. Fifteen million flying mammals fly in for the season, which makes it the largest concentration of a single mammal on the face of the Earth.
Bracken cave preserve would be that place if you wondered where to see the world’s largest maternity colony of bats. Located less than twenty miles from downtown San Antonio, the location is accessible.
Bracken Cave is a nature preserve bought by Bat Conservation International to ensure that human encroachment would not destroy this excellent bat habitat and be a haven for the bat species that live there.
Located in San Antonio, Bracken Cave is very accessible. To book a visit, you must be a Bat Conservation International member and book your appointment through their website.
The preserve is open twenty-four hours a day, but the cave is on private property. This is owned and managed by Bat Conservation International. To protect the area, the entrance is restricted to small groups. Mornings and evenings are the best time to see the emergence of millions of bats from the cave, looking for insects.
6. Camden Street Bridge
If you were to ask where to see the best bachelor colony of bats in Texas, then Camden street bridge is the place.
This is one of Texas’ favorite places to see an all-male colony of Mexican free-tail bats. The species is 50,000 robust under the bridge at Camden street owing to the bridge’s structure, the spacing is just wide enough for their little brown bodies to snuggle into, and the sun warms the bridge during the day for them. They stay nice and warm before they emerge at night to go on their nocturnal feeding frenzy.
The best place to see the bats on Camden street bridge is the museum’s reach segment of the San Antonio River Walk. The bats are under the I35 Bridge, which crosses the San Antonio River near Camden St.
The bats can be seen from April through October at sunset.
Every year, Bat Conservation International and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department collaborate to put on their annual Bat Loco night.
It is held during San Antonio’s Kidcation week and features live music, food trucks, a parade, booths, and bat friends, all for the education and awareness of bats. Bat experts and conservationists are on hand to educate the public, and there are activities for children of all ages.
The event is held in the Camden Street bridge area along the museum reach segment of the San Antonio River Walk.
7. Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area
In Rocksprings, Texas, Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area is a massive sinkhole approximately 50ft. wide that drops 140 ft. to the main cavern. It is 350 ft. at its lowest and houses three million Mexican Free-tailed Bats.
The bats leave the cavern each evening during the summer months, and while they are gobbling up tons of insects, 3,000- to 4,000 cave swallows swoop in and take up residence until the bats return each morning.
The bats can be seen in the Devils’ sinkhole between May and October each year. There is a visitor center that is open from Wednesday through Sunday.
Tours to view the bats leave from Rockspring’s Visitors Center. Access to the Devil’s sinkhole is by reservation only, which can be made by email.
8. Frio Bat Cave
This is the location of the second-largest bat colony in the world, open to the public. Ten to twelve million Mexican free-tailed bats call the cave home from March through September.
Not only can you see a massive amount of bats, but if you have ever wondered where to see a fantastic assortment of birds of prey, this will be a double treat.
As the bats emerge from the caves on their nightly feeding, you may witness hawks and falcons as they wait to prey on any bats who are not paying attention. It is a rare wildlife scene but something you definitely should not miss.
Located near Concan, the Frio bat cave is accessible by tour only. Meet the tour guide at the gate to Frio bat cave; the cave is a couple of miles drive. Tours can be purchased through Frio.
This tour is excellent for school groups and has spring break tours. They are handicap accessible and will drive you to the top of the viewing area if you cannot walk.
The best time to see the bats is from March through September at dusk when the bats feed.
9. Stuart Bat Cave (Formerly known as Green Cave)
Stuart Bat Cave hosts 2 million Mexican free-tailed bats from February until October each year, so taking the drive is worthwhile. This tiny species burst from the 1,068 ft deep cavern into the evening sky. Flight events here are pretty spectacular.
If you like a location that is a bit off the beaten path, this one is for you. Located in the Kickapoo Cavern State Park, it is 22 miles north of Brackettville, Texas.
There are no restrictions on viewing the flight of bats in the cave.
The bats are in residence from February through October. The park is open from Friday to Monday, with the best time to see the bats at dusk. Get there early as they sometimes come out earlier than the sunset.
10. Old Tunnel State Park
This cave is unique in Hill Country in Texas because it hosts two different species of bats. The Mexican free-tailed bat, which most locals are aware of, and the lesser-known Cave myotis bat.
There are 3 million Mexican Free-tailed Bats in the Old Tunnel Cave and only 3,000 Cave Myotis Bats, so look hard when you visit and see if you can distinguish between the two species.
The Old Tunnel state park has three viewing areas to see the bats.
Upper viewing area – The upper viewing area is adjacent to the parking lot. It is open nightly to visitors and affords a view of the Texas hill country surrounding the Old Tunnel State Park.
There is a 250-person limit in this area. The park closes off the parking lot and lets people in as people leave. I suggest bringing a chair and a blanket to sit in the overflow area while you wait.
Lower Viewing Area Tour – You can get an up-close view of this magnificent species. The lower viewing location is so close to the emergence that the bat’s wings’ flapping can be heard.
Here’s the spot if you’ve ever wondered where to see these bats up close and personal.
The tours are conducted Thursday-Sunday, May through October. For the safety of the bats and visitors, only 70 people are allowed on this tour. An educational program is included on bats, emphasizing the species Tadarida brasiliensis Mexicana, the Mexican free-tailed bat.
The upper viewing area is best viewed in August and September when the bat emergence time is earlier and more light is present.
In June, the population is smaller because of breeding, but it returns to full size by August.
The best viewing months are August and September.
100,000 Mexican Free-tailed Bats call the Watonga Boulevard Bridge along White Oak Bayou Greenway home. Upon emerging at sunset, this species can be watched from benches along the bayou or bring blankets and chairs and sit in the green spaces. It is a sight to see thousands of tiny bats make their way along White Oak bayou before disappearing out into the night.
While planning your visit, remember to consider the weather. The bats will not emerge if the thermometer drops below fifty degrees as the sun goes down.
The bridge is located 11 miles northwest of downtown Houston at 4701 Watonga Boulevard. Setting up on a bench along the White Oak Bayou is a great way to see the bats. The bats emerge from beneath the bridge.
The bats can be seen from spring through fall, and the best time to see them is sunset.
12. Waugh Drive Bridge
The Waugh Drive bridge consistency gives one of the best bat shows in Texas. An estimated 250,000 Mexican Free-tailed Bats live under the Waugh Drive bridge. The bats hide in the lush vegetation of Buffalo Bayou Park and then burst forth from the bridge at sunset. Flying amongst the greenery and then out amongst Houston’s skyscrapers, they fly into the night sky and onward into the fields to feast on insects.
The bats can be viewed emerging from under the Waugh Drive bridge. There are several places to view them. If you look over the bridge’s east rail sidewalk and look down, this is a magnificent sight to catch the bats up close.
Along Allen Parkway, there is also a viewing platform at the bayou bank.
The third spot to see them is on the northeast bank of the bayou, near Memorial Drive.
The platform and sidewalks are open all year round. The bats will come out at sundown. Stay back from the bridge to give them plenty of room. Do not shine any bright light source at them. They are super sensitive to light, and this will disturb them.
The best emergencies from the bridge happen on warm nights.
13. Clarity Tunnel
If you do not mind a hike to find some bats, then the Clarity Tunnel is for you. Located in the Texas panhandle, the Clarity Tunnel is in Caprocks Canyon State Park and is a 5-mile hike to view 500,000 Mexican Free-tail Bats emerge into the Texas evening sky.
A $5.00 state park pass will get you on your way from late April through late October. You can obtain a key at park headquarters, or if you prefer, you can schedule a guided tour for $10.00.
Ensure you bring all the essentials: water, sunscreen, a jacket for inclement weather, and a hat. Bats defecate before taking off into the night, and you will be right in that zone at the tunnel entrance. Bug repellent would also be a good idea.
This can be an enchanting event. There won’t be near as many people here watching bats as there would be at many other events, so your chances of getting to the species at its finest are optimum.
Bring a camera or your phone and be prepared for a spectacular show.
The bats can be found at Caprock Canyon State Park. The Clarity Tunnel is a five-mile hike leading to what looks like a mineshaft entrance.
The best time to see the bats are at sunset. The best months to see them at Clarity tunnel are April to October.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.