Day Trips: Bat-Watching in Texas

Six places to watch the bats


Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Watching bats emerge on their nightly bug-eating flights is one of the most beautiful spectacles of nature, and Texas has them in abundance.

According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Texas is home to 32 of 47 species of bats found in the United States. The most numerous is the Mexican free-tailed bat that migrates north of the Rio Grande in early spring and then returns south with the first cold fronts in October.


A single bat can eat as many as 6,000 to 8,000 insects in a night, ranging from mosquitoes to crop-destroying moths. Texas has the largest bat colony in the world, north of San Antonio at Bracken Cave Preserve, managed by Bat Conservancy International (batcon.org), and the largest urban bat colony under Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin.

Houston has its own resident bat colonies (houstontx.gov/parks/batpage.html). The Waugh Drive Bridge over Buffalo Bayou between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive near downtown houses what maybe the largest year-round population of bats in Texas. A smaller but still substantial colony lives year-round under the Watonga Boulevard Bridge in Northwest Houston. Both parks have viewing areas for visitors.


In San Antonio, the Camden Street Bridge on I-35 near the Pearl Entertainment District houses a colony of male free-tailed bats during the summer months. This has the added feature of being near the Museum Reach portion of the River Walk, which includes the Grotto and other art installations.

At dusk a small colony of bats emerges from the I-35 overpass at McNeil Road in Round Rock (batsinroundrock.com). The best viewing location is from the parking lot of Napa Auto Parts store at 601 S. I-35.


1,555th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at austinchronicle.com/daily/travel.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

bats, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Mexican free-tailed bats, Bracken Cave Preserve, Bat Conservancy International, Congress Avenue Bridge, Waugh Drive Bridge, Buffalo Bayou, Watonga Bridge, Houston, San Antonio, Camden Street Bridge, River Walk

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