Park Alert... 

The Bat Emergence

Watching a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats emerge is truly a special experience! During emergence, the bats spiral upwards in a counter-clockwise direction in order to gain altitude. Aerial predators, such as red-tailed hawks, are sometimes seen catching bats as they emerge, and terrestrial predators, such as raccoons, feed on fallen bats. The large, serpentine column of bats can travel as high as 10,000 feet and 60 miles, one-way, each night to feed on agricultural pests such as the corn earworm (a.k.a. cotton bollworm), cutworm, and webworm moths. Each bat can eat its weight in insects nightly, and the Old Tunnel colony may devour over 25 tons of moths per night! When visiting Old Tunnel, we recommend bringing a pair of binoculars to get the best view of the bat emergence. Call (866) 978-2287 to get the latest emergence time information.

Viewing the Bat Emergence

Visitors can enjoy the bat emergence from May through October by choosing three options:  viewing the emergence from the two upper viewing areas, participating in a lower viewing area tour. 

Reservations required to stay after 5 p.m.

You must get permits in advance online or by calling the Customer Service Center, or you will not be allowed to be in the park after 5 p.m. or for bat viewings. 

Currently no more than 10 people are allowed in each of our bat viewing areas so make your reservations early.

The park cannot conduct any financial transactions on-site and if you do not have a permit, you will not be allowed in for bat viewings. Children under 4 years of age are not allowed at the lower area. 

Upper Viewing Area

The upper viewing area, located adjacent to the parking area, is open nightly for use by the general public. The scenic view from the upper viewing area allows visitors to experience the rugged beauty of the Texas Hill Country. Many bicyclists, motorcyclists, and car clubs stop at Old Tunnel to enjoy this view. Bats are best viewed from this area during August and September, when bat emergence times are earlier and more light is present. Fantastic views of red-tailed hawks feeding on emerging bats can also be seen from this area. 

 

Lower Viewing Area Tour

People watching for bats

A close-up view of the emergence is one of the most unique experiences in nature. The flapping of millions of tiny wings is usually audible and often creates a light wind that can be felt by visitors in the lower viewing area. Lower viewing area tours are conducted Thursday through Sunday, May through October. An educational program is given about bats, with an emphasis on the fascinating life history of the Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana).

Seating and Admission

We currently allow no more than 10 people in each of our three viewing areas. Before you arrive for bat viewings, you must get permits in advance online or by calling the Customer Service Center, for both the free and paid viewing areas. The park cannot conduct any transactions on-site and if you do not have a permit, you will not be allowed in. 

Seats are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. The activity tour fee for the lower viewing area is $5 per person. Due to the bat’s sensitivity to noise disturbance, children must be 4 years old to go to the lower area. We do not accept the Texas State Parks Passes. These passes cover the entrance fee to state parks, but not activity and tour fees. 

Tours begin approximately one hour prior to bat emergence time. Composting toilets are present at the upper viewing area, but are only open during the evening hours from May through October and during special events.