Did you know that the bat caves in Texas are a major tourist attraction of the state?
Texas has one of the largest bat populations in North America with over 30 different types of bats.
In fact, the Mexican free-tailed bat is the official flying mammal of Texas!
The bats in Texas are diverse, and live in many different habitats.
It is very common to find bat colonies in caves and caverns throughout the Lone Star State.
In fact, there are bat caves near most major cities in Texas!
If you are lucky, you can see bats flying out and heading up into the night sky during a visit to the bat caves.
Here is the ultimate guide to see the bat caves in Texas.
What are bats?
Bats are a group of nocturnal mammals that have wings that allow them to fly.
There are more than 1,000 bat species in the world.
A bat colony likes to live in dark places where they hang upside down from ceilings.
Bats emerge from their habitat at sundown and can be seen flying from entrances of caves or under bridges.
What are bat caves?
A bat cave is the home for a colony of bats.
The best caves for bats are the ones are dark, dry, and large enough to accommodate a colony.
Besides caves, bat colonies can also inhabit abandoned mines, bridges, tunnels, and under buildings.
Best Places to see bats in Texas
In Texas, it is common to find bat caves due to ideal environmental conditions.
There are several public bat viewing locations in the Lone Star State.
The best bat caves in Texas are found in the southern region of the state.
Some of the most popular bat caves are Stuart Bat Cave, Congress Avenue Bridge, and Bracken Cave.
Here is a list of some of the best places to see bats in Texas:
Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin
Congress Avenue Bat Bridge in Austin is one of the most popular places to see bats in Texas!
Over 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats live under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge that spans Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas.
This is the largest urban bat colony in the world.
Every night from April to October, over a million Mexican free tailed bats fly out from under the bridge at dusk to feed on insects.
This is truly a magnificent sight – do not miss it while you are in Austin!
The best time for viewing is between 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
Along with being the world’s largest bat colony, this is also one of the best free bat viewing sites in Texas.
Also Read: Best Things to do in Texas Hill Country
Bracken Bat Cave in Texas near San Antonio
One of the popular bat caves in Texas, Bracken Cave, is located adjacent to Natural Bridge Caverns in San Antonio, Texas.
This privately owned site managed by Bat Conservation International is home to over 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats.
Every summer, the bats emerge from under the natural rock bridge on this preserve and take off into the night sky.
The Bracken Bat Flight is an amazing thing to observe. The flying bats form a thick cloud of bat against the sky.
Visitors can see the Bracken Cave Preserve by purchasing tickets to the attraction.
Natural Bridge Caverns also has many other attractions including cave tours to see stalactites and stalagmites, zip lines, obstacle course, and mining for gems and fossils.
Also Read: Best Things to do in San Antonio, Texas
Stuart Bat Cave, Brackettville
The Stuart Bat Cave, located in the Hill Country inside Kickapoo Cavern State Park, is another great place to see bats in Texas.
This cave is home to a colony of 1 million Mexican free-tailed bats.
Entry to the park costs just $3 to watch the bats exit the cave to hunt.
Visitors can wait at the viewing area and watch bats fly out in formation toward the west, or they may choose to walk to another view point close by for a better look.
It takes about 20 minutes after sunset for the bats to finish their exit flights.
The bat flight can best be seen during summer nights from may through October.
Other things to do in the state park include taking the Kickapoo Cavern Cave tour, hiking, camping, biking, and birding.
The park is about 2.5 hours west of San Antonio.
Bamberger Ranch Preserve, Johnson City
The Bamberger Ranch Preserve in Johnson City is a perfect place to see bats in the Texas Hill Country.
This privately owned preserve is just an hour away from Austin and is home to over 300,000 Mexican free-tailed bats.
The bat cave here is not natural but man made, known as the Chiroptorium.
In fact, it is the world’s first artificial bat cave.
Visitors can buy tickets to the bat emergence viewings at the preserve.
Also Read: Best Austin area day trip destinations
Camden Street Bridge, San Antonio
The Camden Street Bridge near I-35 in San Antonio is another popular place to see bats in Texas.
This bridge spans the Museum Reach of the San Antonio Riverwalk and is home to a colony of over 50,000 Mexican free-tailed bats.
At dusk during summer, you can watch the bats fly out from under the bridge to hunt for food.
Bat Loco Bash, an annual event to educate the public about bats, is held here every August by Bat Conservation International.
Be sure to check out the sculpture known as The Grotto adjacent to the bridge on the Riverwalk.
Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area, Rocksprings
Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area is located in Rocksprings, Texas.
It is home to a large colony of Mexican free-tailed bats.
Devil’s Sinkhole cavern is a natural sinkhole that is so deep and so wide that it could fit the Statue of Liberty itself!
This is a vertical natural bat habitat and it is fun to see the bats emerge at dusk through the enormous hole in the ground from the bat observation deck.
Visitors can buy tickets to the bat flight tours to view the mammals.
Watonga Boulevard Bridge, Houston
Houston is a diverse city and has several different ecosystems.
One of the most popular, however, are the bat colonies that reside in the city’s bridges.
The Watonga Boulevard Bridge and other bridges along the city’s bayous are some of the more well-known locations to see bats on the Gulf Coast.
The Watonga Boulevard Bridge is one the White Oak Bayou Greenway Trail.
It hosts a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats numbering around 100,000.
Bats can be seen flying out from under the bridge at dusk into the night and are best viewed in late summer or early fall.
There is a viewing platform near the bridge.
Old Tunnel State Park, Fredericksburg
Over 3 million Mexican free-tailed and thousands of Cave myotis bats inhabit an abandoned railroad tunnel at Old Tunnel State Park near Fredericksburg, Texas.
The human-made bat habitat is over 900 feet long tunnel built for the Northern Railroad.
While the upper viewing area is free to the public every day, the lower area is 3+ years, costs $5 fee per person, and is open from Thursdays to Sundays.
Clarity Tunnel, Texas Panhandle
Clarity Tunnel in Caprock Canyons State Park is home to a large colony of 500000 Mexican free-tailed bats.
This abandoned railroad tunnel is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a beautiful structure.
The tunnel, located in the Texas Panhandle, near Amarillo is part of the Caprock Canyons Trailway.
To reach the bat colony and the tunnel, visitors need to hike 4.5 miles from the parking lot at Monk’s Crossing.
The round trip will be 9 miles.
Visitors on this trail will see many different geologic features from canyon walls to the vast desert expanse.
Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve, Mason
The Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve is another great place to see and learn about bats in Texas.
The Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve is just 40 miles north west of Fredericksburg on the James River.
It has a long history of being used as a bat nursery by almost 4 to 6 million Mexican free-tailed pregnant female bats.
Waugh Drive Bridge Bat Colony, Houston
Waugh Drive Bridge at the Buffalo Bayou Park is home to a large bat colony.
Around 250,000 bats make the bridge their home during the bat migration season.
Seeing the urban colony fly through the buildings of downtown Houston is an amazing experience.
The best location to see the bats fly is from the Allen Parkway or from the sidewalk of the bridge.
In the summer, private boat tours are also offered for those interested in watching the bats from the water.
The bats here can also be seen in spring, fall, or early winter if the day is warm enough.
Frio Bat Cave, Concan
Frio Bat Cave is a bat cave located in the Frio River in Texas and it is home to one of the largest colonies in Texas.
The bat population here consists of Mexican free-tailed bats. The cave is home to almost 10 million bats.
You can visit Frio Bat Cave from March to September to see the bat flights.
Watching the bats fly overhead is a spectacular experience. You can also spot predators like hawks swooping in on the bats.
Tips to see bats in Texas
Getting into bat caves is difficult and dangerous – so most of the bat caves in Texas are by tours only.
We recommend making advance reservations to join tours as they tend to be popular.
If going on a cave tour, we recommend wearing long sleeve shirts and pants that cover your arms and legs.
Make sure you have good sturdy shoes that won’t slip on any wet surfaces while walking around inside the cave.
You can also see bats as they fly out of the caves.
The best time to view the bats fly is at dusk or dawn when they fly out of their cave homes.
Never go near or touch a bat.
Do not make loud noises or use bright lights to disturb the bats.
Do not stand directly in front of the bat flight path and watch from a safe distance.
Bats hibernate from November to March, so you won’t be able to see them fly during this time.
Texas Parks and Wildlife has great bat watching information on their website for enthusiasts.
Why is it important to protect the bat population in Texas?
Bats are an important part of ecosystems because they help control pests like mosquitos and beetles by eating their larvae and insects such as moths and flies.
Bats are beneficial for many plants such as agave, cacti, bananas, dates, figs and more.
Some species of bats also pollinate flowers and play an important part in nature.
Interesting Facts about Bats in Texas
Bats are the only mammals that can fly.
Bats use echolocation – a technique to search for food or to avoid predators and obstacles by emitting sounds and listening for the echo to locate objects.
The average bat can eat up to 1200 mosquitoes in an hour!
Bats are found around the world on every continent except Antarctica and South America.
If you’re planning on visiting any of these bat attractions, be sure to take the recommended precautions and don’t forget your camera to capture the bats emerging from the caves.
Did we miss any popular bat watching site? Which is amongst your favorite bat caves in Texas? Let us know in the comments.