Who would have known that watching Austin bats emerging at dusk from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge would become such a popular Austin tourism activity?
[Quick Austin History Lesson: following its 1980 renovation, the Congress Avenue Bridge with its myriad of new crevices, unintentionally became an ideal home to the migratory Mexican Free-Tail bat.]
The migratory Mexican Free-Tail Bat colony, estimated to include more than 1.5 million bats, is said to be the largest bat colony in North America. The bats reside in Austin from mid-March through early November.
At dusk, the Austin Texas bats emerge in waves to feed on insects up and down Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake, which is actually a stretch of the Lower Colorado River that's been dammed). The bats in Austin reportedly consume up to thirty thousands pounds of insects nightly.
The most popular spot to watch the bats is from the east rails of the bridge itself. But you can also watch from a paved trail that runs beneath the bridge along the north shore.
Even after they've all left the bridge, the bats are still visible in swarm like formation against the backdrop of the sky, or else darting individually in and out of the tree line along the shores of Lady Bird Lake.
Watching the bats, either from atop the Congress Avenue Bridge or beneath it along the banks of the water, is in the Free Austin Things To Do category. But you also have a couple of options should you want to go the tour route.
SegCity offers Segway tours of downtown Austin that culminate in a viewing of the bats. And you can also watch the bats from down on the water itself aboard an electric paddle wheel boat from Capital Cruises.
Bats in Austin have become almost like family. In April of 2010, the migratory Mexican Free-Tailed bat was named the official animal of Austin.
Additionally, Austin's now defunct professional hockey team, the Ice Bats, were named after the Congress Avenue Bridge bats.