Congress Street Bats

Having lived in Austin for twenty years, I have seen the bats many, many times.  Whenever anyone visits from out of town between the months of April and August, we have to spend an evening watching them come out.  So, with my brother in town, this was a definite event! 

The history of the bats, as I understand it, is that Austin has always had bats, and maybe even slightly more than our fair share.  But in the 80s, renovations on the Congress Street Bridge made the ideal nesting place for these flying mammals.  Since then, Austin has become the proud host of the largest urban bat colony in North America!


What time of day? 
The bats are visible at dusk when they emerge from under the bridge to spend the night catching small bugs.  Check a local weather station for the time of sun down, and plan to arrive a half an hour or so before then.  

What time of year?
The bats are visible from March until November, though the best viewing time is in August.  

Along the southern portion of the Congress Street Bridge (305 South Congress Ave, 78704).  

Where to park?
I believe the Austin American Stateman is still offering parking in their lot for $5.  This is located right along the river where the bats emerge.

There is also free parking just a short walk to the south at the Texas One Center (505 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78704)

Best viewing spot?
Bring a blanket or chairs to sit on the eastern hillside near the Austin American Statesman or stand on the bridge and watch from the road above.

You can also take any number of water cruises who will hang out under the bridge until the bats arrive.

Lone Star Riverboat Cruises and Capitol Cruises are two options, though there are many more.

How long to plan for?
They say the bats can take up to 45 minutes to emerge.  you might find yourself mesmerized for the first fifteen to twenty minutes, but after that, most people are ready to pack up and move on :o)

The hillside, bridge and even river fill up to watch the show!
Now, when checking out the bats, there is always the risk that they "don't show".  For whatever reason, some nights they just don't come out en masse.  I have been told this is due to recent rains - the wetter it is, the easier bug catching for the bats.  During dry times, the bats need to come out right at sunset to get make the most of their bat catching time.  During wetter times, they can sleep in a bit...

Fortunately for my visit when my brother was in town, the night was one of the most spectactular shows that I have ever seen.  

I always love that first glimpse as the bats first appear. Someone (usually my son) breathlessly shouts, "Bats!!" and a sigh goes out amongst the whole crowd.  The bats then pile out from under the bridge, swoop around, and then head out to the east.  This can take anywhere from fifteen to forty five minutes.  Sometimes, when the show is over, we clap :o)

Tips and thoughts:  If you come early, parking is free in the Statesman parking lot.  Once that fills, the Statesman seems to be selling out the employee parking for $5.  There is also lots of free parking at the Texas One Building which is just a short walk from the bats.

You can view the bats from above or below (or even by boat).  We usually bring a blanket and hang out on the grass below. 

Bring water, a picnic and a little cash.  There is usually a man selling ice cream from a small cart on the grassy hill :o) 

When we went, we arrived around 8:15pm, waited for about 15 minutes, and then the bats appeared.  The time changes based on the time of year, however.

Tonight, the bats took at least a half hour to come out and created a huge line into the distance, as far as the eye could see!

1 comment:

  1. The kayak tours by Live Love Paddle are an awesome way to see the bats. Many visitors to Austin want to kayak and also see the bats, so this lets you do both activities at once! Plus, seeing the Austin skyline from the water at night made this a highlight of our trip to Austin.


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