Bat Watching Guide
Merlin Tuttle's Personal Advice
The best predictor of spectacular, early emergences is hot, dry weather. Great viewing opportunities are most likely during spring migration from mid-March to mid-April and as bat pups are learning to fly in late July, continuing through August.
Emergences will occur every night during spring and summer, normally within 30 minutes of sundown, before in hot, dry weather, but up to 40 minutes after in cooler, damp weather. Austin sunset times are available here.
Depending on weather, good emergences may be seen as late as early October.
Up to 100,000 bats are present year-round, and nice, single column emergences can be seen even in mid-winter following several consecutive days of exceptionally warm, dry weather.
In a typical year, mid-May through June would be the least likely times to view emergences, in part because pregnant bats tend to emerge later and because spring rains ensure plentiful food.
Late emergences are only visible from below the bridge, looking up toward a street light, especially over the southeast river bank.
The most spectacular emergences ever seen at the bridge are in years of the most severe droughts. At such times the hungry bats can be forced to emerge up to an hour before sunset due to scarcity of insects to eat.
Because of climate change weather is becoming less and less predictable. Hurricanes that dump unseasonal rain can spoil bat viewing for several weeks, even in August.
For best viewing, check weather forecasts, looking for heat without rain. The longer the dry heat has lasted the better.
No white lights shone on emerging bats.
No loud noises within 100 feet of the bridge, clapping, yelling, musical instruments.
No drones within 20 feet of emerging columns. Collisions kill bats and disable drones.
No capturing or handling bats.
Flash photos are okay, though flash isn’t normally useful during a good emergence.
NEVER ATTEMPT TO HANDLE BATS!!! Those that can be easily handled are most likely to be sick. If you want to help a downed bat at the bridge, call Austin Bat Refuge. Don’t attempt to handle it yourself.
Free-tailed bats are gentle animals that rarely bite except in self-defense if handled.
No visitor has ever been attacked or contracted a disease from these bats.
Poison ivy should be carefully avoided along the riverbank, especially at the southeast end of the bridge.
The first major bat column to emerge normally exits along the river edge at the southeast end of the bridge, with the column heading east along the river. Because this is where bats are first seen, visitors tend to congregate there for viewing. However, for better views and photography, this is usually a mistake.
On good emergence nights, at least two or three more columns typically begin within the first few minutes, one exiting near the middle and another near the northeast end of the bridge. Viewers positioned between the middle and north end of the bridge will have the best, unobstructed view of up to a mile of columns, clearly defined against the sky.
The observation deck on northeast side of river, adjacent to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail provides an unobstructed view of the bats, bridge and water.
Photographs from water level, or from the new bat viewing platform beneath the northeast end of the bridge, will show the most bat watchers and columns of emerging bats.
For getting a variety of great photos showing visitors and the Austin skyline in the background rent a small boat or kayak.
Another recommended option is to book passage on a Capital Cruises tour boat. Their captains are experienced at positioning boats for ideal viewing.
WARNING!! Until overgrown vegetation is trimmed from beneath the south end of the bridge, and from the southeast river edge, this otherwise nice location will offer poor viewing. Prior to neglect, a major bat column passed over this official viewing area.
Additional directions for bat viewing at bridges are available from the Texas Department of Transportation. Copies can be obtained gratis at the Texas Travel Center at The State Capitol.
Austin American-Statesman's Bat Observation Center
305 S Congress Ave Austin, TX 78704
Limited parking is available at $6 for up to four hours at the southeast end of the bridge
Catherine of Austin
214 Barton Springs Rd. 78704
Paid parking is $5
301 W 2nd St. Austin, TX 78701
Parking is $7 per hour and free after 7pm, and located 4 blocks northwest of the Congress Ave. Bridge
Hyatt Regency Hotel
208 Barton Springs Rd. 78704
Paid parking is $5-$10 per hour, less than 100 yards away from the south end of the bridge
101 Colorado St. Garage
101 Colorado St., Austin, TX 78701
Parking is $10 after 5pm, and located 2 blocks northwest of the Congress Ave. Bridge.
Four Seasons Hotel - 98 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX 78701
The LINE Austin - 111 E W Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78701
Hyatt Regency - 208 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704