Experiencing the wonder of watching bats in Texas is a classic activity in the Lone Star State. Not only does Texas have incredible cave systems that attract bats, but over time, human-made infrastructure like railroad tunnels and bridges that have attracted these furry flying mammals to the state.
The result? Plenty of places to watch bats in Texas!
11 Places to See Texas Bat Colonies
Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin
Crossing Lady Bird Lake in Austin is the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, where we find the world’s largest urban population of Mexican free-tailed bats.
From March to October, every evening, you can witness this large colony as they corkscrew out from the bridge and into the air to feed on millions of insects.
Take one of the boat tours that bring you under the bridge and anchor in the lake during the bats’ exit for the best views.
This is one of the most popular bat viewings in the state. Be sure to arrive early if you plan to reserve a seat on a boat.
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Bracken Cave Preserve
Since Austin has the largest urban bat colony, we must now take a look at the overall largest colony of bats found anywhere in the world. Bracken Cave prides itself on housing a population estimated between 15-20 million bats.
Located northeast of San Antonio on what was once a ranch, Bracken Cave was purchased along with 1500 acres by the Bat Conservation International in 1992. The group provides viewing of bats to members who must also make a reservation. Membership fees help the group’s conservation and research efforts.
Each night from a 100 ft. crack in the earth, millions of bats begin their exit from the cave. With so many bats in one place, it can take over four hours for the show to end when the last of the bat’s exit. What an experience!
Old Tunnel State Park
A 900-foot long-abandoned railroad tunnel is home to over 3 million Mexican free-tailed and thousands of myotis bats.
Located near Fredericksburg, the human-made cave and state park are open to the public for bat viewing. There are two areas to view the bats from. The upper viewing area is free and the lower viewing area charges a $5 fee per person.
Old Tunnel State Park offers a good opportunity to see a bat colony after enjoying a day exploring nearby Fredericksburg, Luckenbach, and Texas wine country.
Waugh Drive Bridge, Houston
The Hill Country is not the only place to see bats. In Texas, even the Gulf Coast region has its share of bat colonies.
When visiting Houston, be sure to check out the bat colony at the Waugh Drive Bridge. Spanning Buffalo Bayou, the bridge has become a temporary home during the bat migration season.
Around 250,000 bats make the bridge their home. There is no fee to watch the bats from Buffalo Bayou Park, operated by the city. However, private boat tour companies provide a better viewing vantage point on the water for a fee.
Stuart Bat Cave, Kickapoo Cavern State Park
Near Brackettville, Texas, is Kickapoo Cavern State Park, where millions of years of geological activity have created cavern systems.
One of these systems, known as Stuart Bat Cave, is home to millions of bats. Viewings are available for a nominal $3 fee to witness the bats nightly exit and hunt.
Tours of the cavern systems outside of Stuart Bat Cave are available for those who want to spend a day of cave exploring before the bat viewing.
Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve
Once privately owned by the Ekert family, this home to about 6 million bats was once mined for its bat guano (droppings) for fertilizer to local farmers.
Located near the Llano River outside of Mason, Texas, the ranch was donated to the Nature Conservatory with the stipulation that it must remain open to the public. The Conservatory has kept the promise for over 100 years.
There is a $5 per person fee, and bat viewing is available Thursday-Sunday from May through October.
One of the more unique bat watching experiences occurs at the Devil’s Sinkhole located in Rocksprings, Texas. As the name suggests, this cave system is a little different from others as it is not located on the side of an outcrop of rock but directly below the ground.
The sinkhole is about 350 feet deep at its deepest with a 50-foot wide cavern housing millions of Mexican Free-Tailed bats.
The unique thing about bat watching at the Devil’s Sinkhole is the fact that when the bats leave their roosts, their place is taken by a few thousand small swallows who house sit for the bats until their morning return.
Frio Bat Cave
Privately owned, the Frio Bat Cave is home to one of the largest bat colonies in Texas. With over 10 million bats estimated to live in the cave, it provides much entertainment for those who attend the viewing.
Located close to the Frio River and near Concan, those who visit the area or camp at Garner State Park will have an opportunity to enjoy this great site.
The cave is also known for viewing more than just bats, as animals such as hawks and other species of predator birds catch their fill of bats for supper each night.
Reservations must be made in advance, with tours usually ending during the month of September.
I-35 Bridge, Round Rock
Most of the bridges included in this guide to watching bats in Texas are low-speed traffic bridges. For the I-35 Bridge located in Round Rock, Texas, that is not the case.
The I-35 is an interstate highway, and many strangers passing through are surprised by a dark cloud of bats flying out of the bridge they are driving over the bridge.
Free parking is available at some of the local businesses under the bridge, and of course, there is no fee to see the bats fly each evening.
The I-35 bridge viewing can be a less crowded option than the Congress Street Bridge viewing in Austin.
Our next bat watching area takes us to the Texas Panhandle. Clarity Tunnel, an abandoned railroad tunnel, is found along the Caprock Canyon Trailway.
The Clarity Tunnel holds about 500,000 bats throughout the season and is one of the few places you can actually walk through the habitat since the hiking trail goes through it.
Exit the tunnel in the evening to watch the bats exit for their nightly hunting.
The trail, the location of the tunnel, and bat watching make this attraction a full day experience. Bring a picnic to enjoy your time at the Caprock Canyon Trailway.
Bamberger Ranch Preserve
This is one of the more curious bat colonies found in Texas. The Chiroptorium, as the structure housing the bats is known, was intentionally built to attract and be a home for a bat population of 1,000,000 creatures. The ranch currently has about 200,000 bat occupants and will hopefully reach near its full capacity in the future.
The Chiroptorium is part of a larger complex of 5,500 acres designed to preserve and study wildlife in the area. There are a ton of things to do at the Bamberger Ranch besides a bat tour.
Located near Johnson City, Texas, the ranch offers workshops, events, and tours, including day trips for schools.
Reservations are required.
Fun Facts + Tips for Watching Bats in Texas
Most of the bats for viewing in Texas are Mexican free-tailed bats.
… but around 32 total species call Texas home.
You need to plan for the right time of year.
Bat watching season is generally thought of as March through November each year. However, the population increases dramatically from August through November as bat pups born in summer take flight during this time.
… and the right time of day.
Bat flights usually begin around sunset, and depending on the population, can last hours.
You can witness not hundreds or thousands but millions of bats taking flight in their search for food each evening at some bat colonies.
However, there are no guarantees.
Part of watching wild bats in Texas means working on their schedule, and that means that there’s no guarantee that any particular evening will translate into a spectacular show.
Sometimes, the bats emerge from their homes all at once–that’s the reality in most photos you’ll see of them–but at other times, they emerge slowly, in small groups, and the effect for onlookers is much less dramatic.
Keep in mind that bats are a protected species.
In Texas, bats are a protected species in their natural surroundings, including every location in this article.
Absolutely never try to touch a bat.
Given that bats are wild animals, this should perhaps go without saying, but it’s very important.
Never touch or try and pick up a bat. Doing so can result in injury to the bat or a bite to your hand.
Map of the Best Places to See Bats in Texas