The Congress Avenue Bridge

Officially known as the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, this famous bridge is the gathering places for hundreds of people to watch millions of bats emerge from underneath the bridge every night during the summer months in downtown Austin, Texas.

While you probably expect to find a lot of wildlife or big fish in Austin, you might be surprised to also learn that millions of bats inhabit the city! And it’s something to behold. The bat colony is considered to be the world’s largest.

Not Everyone Liked the Bats

Like many other things in life, people are afraid of what they do not understand. And it was scary to people in the early 1980s who discovered there were millions of bats living in the downtown area of Austin. People tried to have the bats removed. Thankfully, the city was able to put the fears of citizens at ease by playing to the ecological benefits of having bats in the city. As long as people respected their distance, the bats were perfectly harmless to people.

What Kind of Bats Live Under the Bridge?

The little bats that live under the bridge and provide a spectacular sight to over 100,000 people a year are known as Mexican free-tail bats. The bats are found under the bridge in Austin during the migration season when the bats make their way from Mexico to many southern cities in America.

Protecting the Bats

When a large number of animals come to live in one small area, people need to work hard to protect that habitat and the animals that live there. What’s interesting about the Congress Avenue Bridge bats is that their habitat is man-made. It was a surprise to everyone when it was discovered that the bridge was perfect for these little creatures. The city of Austin and its people have dedicated lots of time and money to help protect these bats. Bat Conservation International works with the city of Austin to ensure the bats are being protected.

Where and When is the Best Time to See the Bats?

Between late Spring and early Autumn, spectators can expect to find millions of bats making their way throughout the night sky in Austin, Texas. Experts lend that the best time to see the bats is about twenty to thirty minutes before sundown, but you’ll want to get there a bit earlier to make sure you get a spot on the bridge. You can pay to park at a nearby parking lot for a moderate fee, but it’s worth it to be able to access the bridge quickly and then leave the area quickly, especially with all the traffic.

Standing directly on the walkway of the bridge provides the best viewpoint for onlookers; however, different perspectives are enjoyed by those sitting along the banks of the lake, or those who are in kayaks on the lake. It can take up to an hour in some cases for all of the bats to vacate the bridge each night, so plan to stay for a while in order to take in this spectacular feat of nature.

 

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