How to Observe the Austin Bats Beneath Congress Bridge
Witnessing the Austin Bats in action is a must for any visitor to Austin. Spanning Lady Bird Lake in the heart of downtown Austin, the Congress Avenue bridge harbors the largest urban bat colony in North America, known as the Congress Bridge Bats. This remarkable colony is home to approximately 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats. Every evening, from mid-March to early November, the Austin Bats emerge from their dwelling beneath the bridge, filling the sky as they embark on their search for nourishment. This nightly phenomenon is hailed as the most awe-inspiring and extraordinary tourist attraction in Austin, Texas. Presented below are five steps to behold the bats in Austin.
1. Confirm the Presence of Bats in Austin
The bats’ nightly escapades are subject to seasonal patterns. Similar to their avian counterparts, they migrate southward for the winter. Typically, they arrive in early March and depart in late October, after the initial cold spell. However, due to the effects of climate change, their arrival times have been gradually advancing, with instances of bats arriving as early as late February. The easiest way to ascertain their flight activity is to check the availability of the tours listed below. These tours commence upon the bats’ arrival and conclude when they depart.
2. Plan Your Visit Time
The Congress Bridge Bats commence their nightly departure approximately 30 to 60 minutes prior to sunset. During bat season, this timeframe varies, as the sunset time changes throughout the year. To secure a favorable vantage point, consult the following link to determine the local sunset time in Austin and aim to arrive at least 90 minutes beforehand.
3. Choose Your Preferred Bat Viewing Method
There are multiple ways to observe the bats. Standing on the bridge offers a free and accessible experience, as does visiting the bat viewing area situated on the southeast corner of Congress Bridge and Lady Bird Lake. If you are on a tight budget, the free bat-watching option is a wonderful choice. However, keep in mind that the bridge can become quite crowded, potentially obstructing the view for shorter individuals. Additionally, in light of concerns surrounding the coronavirus, you may prefer a more spacious environment than what the bridge typically provides. An alternative is the bat viewing area, which tends to be less congested than the bridge. However, we highly recommend embarking on a bat tour that allows you to observe the bats from the water. This perspective offers the best view, as it showcases the bats’ silhouettes against the backdrop of the twilight sky. Provided below are the finest options for bat-watching tours in Austin.
A. Captivating Bat Watching Tours by Capital Cruises
Capital Cruises proudly presents its remarkable collection, featuring the largest electric paddle wheel boat in the entire nation. Among their renowned excursions, the Sunset Bat Watching tour has gained immense popularity. Prepare to be awestruck as you witness the Congress Bridge Bats taking flight from beneath the bridge against the backdrop of the evening skyline. Due to its high demand, this tour is frequently fully booked during bat season, often days in advance. Ticket prices are $13.00 for adults, $10.00 for seniors, and $8.00 for children aged 3 to 12. To secure your spot, it is highly recommended to arrive approximately 30 minutes before sunset and consider purchasing tickets in advance, especially during the peak summer months. Even weekdays are not spared from being sold out regularly. For further information about Capital Cruises and to purchase tickets, please visit this link.
B. Enthralling Bat Watching Tours aboard Lone Star Riverboats
Similar to Capital Cruises, Lone Star Riverboats offers captivating bat watching tours along the scenic Lady Bird Lake. These two companies often collaborate, acting as alternatives for each other when one boat is reserved for a private event. While the tours may have slight variations, they both provide an excellent opportunity to observe the bats comfortably from a seated position beneath the bridge. Ticket prices for Lone Star Riverboats’ tours are $13 for adults, $11 for seniors, $8 for children under 12, and children under 2 can enjoy the tour for free. Delight in the breathtaking views of downtown Austin and the captivating bat colony. To learn more about Lone Star Riverboats and purchase tickets, please follow this link.
C. Kayak Bat Watching Tours by Live Love Paddle
Embark on an extraordinary bat watching adventure with Live Love Paddle’s kayak tours on the serene Lady Bird Lake. Kayaking offers a unique and beloved way to observe the bats. As you glide along the cool waters of the Colorado River, the temperature drops nearly 10 degrees, providing a refreshing experience. The sunset vistas of downtown Austin add to the enchantment, offering picturesque moments that rival the bats themselves. The tours commence from 1602 East Riverside Drive and cost $45 per person. Tandem boats are available for first-time kayakers who wish to share the experience. This tour warmly welcomes children, with a minimum weight requirement of 30 lbs and a maximum weight limit of 275 lbs. Please note that the tours start a bit earlier than the boat tours to allow for a short trek to reach the optimal viewing location. For more details about Live Love Paddle and to purchase tickets, kindly visit this link.
4. Determine Optimal Parking Locations
If you’re accommodated in downtown Austin, the Congress Bridge Bats can potentially be reached on foot from your hotel. Opting for an affordable Uber ride is also a convenient option. For a bit of added thrill, you can hop on a scooter. If you’re driving, there is some free parking available at the Southwest corner of South 1st Street and Lady Bird Lake. However, it’s important to note that this area often fills up quickly due to the influx of bat watching tour guests and locals utilizing the Lady Bird Hike and Bike Trail. An alternative is to pay for parking in the Hyatt parking garage, located across the street. Additionally, there are other paid parking areas at the Austin American Statesmen and Palmer Events Center.
5. Prepare for the Occasion
Lastly, let’s discuss some tips for preparation. The most awe-inspiring bat flights occur during hot, dry August nights when multiple columns of bats take flight. However, during the infrequent rainy season in Austin, there tend to be more insects present and the bats do not need to leave as early to search for food, resulting in a potentially lower bat count. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that mosquitoes can still be quite prevalent. We recommend bringing along some bug spray. Regardless of the time you choose to go, it is likely to be hot, so we suggest bringing a bottle or two of water to stay hydrated throughout the evening.
Exploring Austin’s Attractions
Did you discover this page through a Google search? That’s the case for most people. If you’re eager to learn more about Austin, be sure to take a look at our comprehensive guide on Things to Do in Austin, as well as our Austin Restaurant Guide.
Don’t Miss Out on Haunted ATX While You’re in Town!
If you’re seeking an entertaining activity in Austin, make sure to check out our friends at Haunted ATX. Their main tour takes you to various haunted sites around the city. Alternatively, their private tour offers a unique experience aboard a spooky limousine, a classic Cadillac hearse converted for this purpose, which transports you to several historically significant Austin landmarks rumored to be haunted. They also provide a more affordable option with their public van tour. Follow this link to discover more about the Austin ghost tours offered by Haunted ATX.
Congress Bridge Bats Gallery
Statesman Bat Observation Center Map
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