Thursday, February 2, 2017

Austin Bat Cruise - Under the South Congress Bridge

It's that time again.   The end of February is when the bats return to Austin.   Ever wonder why there are bats on everything in Austin?   Well there is a reason.   The largest colony of urban bats in North America live right here under South Congress Avenue Bridge.  Austin's bat are the Mexican free-tailed bats.  They migrate to Austin each spring from central Mexico and return in fall back.

There are different ways to watch the bats:

1) Standing on the sidewalk of the bridge itself (get there early and wait til dark) This is not a great option for kids as this is a busy street and what kids wants to wait an hour or 2 on a street not able to move. 

2) You can see the bats from the Austin-American Statesman park on the southeast side of the South Congress Bridge.  Take a picnic and wait also a good option

3) A boat ride on Lady Bird Lake. - You can rent a canoe, kayak, or private boat but we tried the Capital Cruises sunset bat watching boat tour.   At Capital Cruises the tours depart 30 minutes before sunset and lasts about one hour. Tours available March through mid-November.

Rates: $10.00 for adults, $8.00 for seniors & $5.00 for kids 3 to 12.

The “first shift” of bats fly out from under the bridge to hunt for flying insects right before sunset.  It can take 2-3 hours for all of the bats to come out but the boat tour is only 1 hour long.   The bats return to the bridge about 30 minutes before sunrise.

In April–May, the pregnant mother bats are very hungry so there are a lot of good nights to catch the bats exiting.  All the bats give birth in the same 2-week window in early June, which causes them to leave later in the night and lowers our chance to see them.   In late July/early August is peak season as the babies start flying out as well.    You have a change to see 1.5 million bats fly out from under the bridge. 

The cruise was great.  We had Austin history facts told to us by our captain as we rode under the other bridges on a slow pontoon style boat.  We brought along our dinner burgers from Hopdoddy as the cruise was during dinner time.  Then after a beautiful sunset we went under the Congress bridge where you can hear the chirping noises of the bats.  The boat stops and waits for the bats to come out. We had to pay to park and there is a Starbucks inside the Hyatt and there are clean restrooms in the lobby of the hotel before the capital cruise boat launch.  It is also BYOB. 

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