Late Summer is the best time of year for Congress Bridge Bat Watching. The Bats make their evening flight like clockwork from under the Congress Avenue bridge in downtown Austin at dusk every day. It’s definitely a sight to see.
Congress Bridge Bat Watching is something we have always said we were going to do, but never seem to actually make the effort. With family visiting from out of town, we were inspired to give it a try. We received a tip from someone that it is easiest to park in the Austin American Statesman paid parking lot. From downtown, cross over Congress Avenue bridge and then make the first left turn at the light into the Statesman complex. The parking area is to the left. There is a nice lawn area where you can spread out a blanket or bring some folding chairs to enjoy Mother Nature’s bat show.
The population of the bats rises from about 750,000 to over a million during the Summer months. “Bat Season” starts around April and runs through the Fall, when the weather gets cooler. The bats migrate back to the area from Mexico during the Spring so they can nest under the bridge. The gestational period is during April and May, so the hungry bat moms are out looking for food each night, which is a great time to view them as they fly out in droves. During June is birthing season, so for a two week period, the bats tend to leave much later. Late July and early August are considered peak season for Congress Bridge Bat Watching. During this period, the baby bats have matured enough to fly out and search for food. When the weather starts to cool off, many of the bats return to warmer climates south. Although there are some that still remain, you won’t see as big of a show after September through Winter.
There are other ways to enjoy Congress Bridge Bat Watching. As you have probably noticed if you have ever been downtown in the evening; people line up on top of the bridge along the sidewalk and wait for dusk. There are also two river cruises that operate bat watching tours. To access the tours you can either park at the Hyatt Regency or the Statesman lot for easiest access. The dock is located just outside the Hyatt along the waterfront.
With small children, the lawn is probably a less stressful place to wait for the bats. You have to get there a little early to save a spot, as it can get pretty crowded during peak season. If you have someone to sit with your belongings, you can take the kids for a walk on the trail along the waterfront. There are plenty of things to see and keep them busy until the show starts.
We also enjoyed taking a walk after the bat flight. The Austin skyline is gorgeous at night and the weather is perfect. When leaving the Statesman grassy area, to stroll in more well lit areas, walk along the trail, under the bridge towards the Hyatt. You have to hold your nose as you go under the bridge, as that is the “bath bathroom”. For some extra fun, take the kids inside the Hyatt to ride the rocket elevators.
Get out and enjoy some Congress Bridge Bat Watching before you have to wait until next year!