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Home / Media & Info / BATS Archives / A VACATIONER'S GUIDE TO BATS
BATS Magazine

VOLUME 9, NO. 1 Spring 1991


A VACATIONER'S GUIDE TO BATS
Where you can go to see and learn about bats. . .

Where you can go to see and learn about bats. . .

The rush of thousands of soft wings buffeting each other as bats emerge from their cave, a lone bat dipping low over a pond for a drink of water--whatever the circumstance, if you appreciate bats, seeing them in the wild is likely to be a thrill you won't soon forget.

For many years, Carlsbad Caverns was one of the few places where people could both see bats and learn more about their natural history. While most parks don't have Carlsbad's large bat population, today many state and national recreation areas highlight bats in their interpretive programs. You may not always be lucky enough to spot bats, but there are now more opportunities than ever to learn about them in their own habitat.
At Nickajack Cave near Chattanooga, Tennessee, visitors have the rare opportunity to see endangered bats. Nearly 100,000 gray bats (Myotis grisescens) take flight each spring and summer evening to feed, the emergence lasting about half an hour. In 1985, the cave, which is located on Nickajack Reservoir, was designated a wildlife observation area. Last year, the Tennessee Valley Authority built a platform to facilitate bat viewing, and they erected a kiosk to educate visitors about the cave's bats and the colorful history of the cave.

Nearby in Alabama, visitors to Blowing Wind Cave can see the largest bat emergence in the eastern U.S. As a result of recent conservation success, approximately 500,000 gray bats can be observed in a spectacular emergence from the cave within the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

In Missouri, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park emphasizes bats in their environmental programs. The park protects and manages the Devil's Icebox, a cave that is home to both maternity and hibernating colonies of gray bats, as well as several other species. On weekends during summer, park naturalists lead visitors on walks above the cave entrance, timed with the evening bat flight. The park also offers a unique opportunity to see where bats live. During the fall and spring, when mother bats are not using the cave to rear their young, the park offers workshops to learn about the ecology and geology of the cave. Natralists lead small groups through the undeveloped cave, stressing conservation during their explorations. Naturalists at Rock Bridge are proud of their accomplishments in not only educating the visiting public about bats, but also the nearby community. A visit to this park offers bat enthusiasts exciting opportunities to learn about these fascinating animals.

Devil's Den State Park in Arkansas offers another unique opportunity. The park, located in the rugged Boston Mountain section of the Ozarks, is a special place: one of its crevice caves is a hibernaculum for the endangered Ozark big-eared bat (Plecotus townsendii ingens), one of the rarest bats in North America (only 2,000 may remain). Park naturalists lead guided hikes through the spectacular crevice area (but not into the cave) to talk about these bats. Each summer, the park holds their special annual Bat-O-Rama to educate people about bats and the importance of bat conservation. One of the highlights is a series of amphitheater programs given by guest bat biologists.

The Eckert James River Bat Cave in the Texas Hill Country is home to approximately four million Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis), an important summer maternity colony. The cave was recently acquired jointly by the Texas Nature Conservancy and Bat Conservation International [BATS, Summer 1990]. A trail to the cave and an interpretive kiosk will be in place by late spring, in time for summer visitors when they arrive to see the spectacular twilight emergence from this sinkhole cave. The largest flights are in July and August. While visitors are in Central Texas, they can stop in Austin to see nearly 750,000 free-tailed bats take flight from beneath the Congress Avenue bridge [BATS, Summer 1990].

Wherever you go, we wish you good viewing!


Photo above: A visitor to Nickajack Cave in Tennessee waits on an observation platform for a colony of endangered gray bats to emerge from the cave.

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The following list of parks and recreational sites is only partial. It represents state parks and other public natural areas where visitors have an opportunity either to see bats or to learn more about them through interpretive programs.

Your visit will be more enjoyable if you contact facilities listed for additional information before you visit. Let them know you are interested in bats. Programs about bats often are given only on specific dates, so be sure to call ahead to avoid disappointment.

The park rangers and naturalists listed will be able to answer your questions about bats at the time of your visit. Ask them to point out where and when you are most likely to spot bats, but remember inclusion in this guide does not guarantee that you will see them. A bat detector might help. Ask if an Animal Checklist is available; a listing of the park's bat species will be included.

The facilities listed are protected. Entering bat caves on your own is strictly prohibited. Bats are easily disturbed in their roosts, so the best way to appreciate them is to leave them alone, simply observing them from a distance as they emerge from their daytime homes.
+ denotes locations where you can see a regular bat flight
* federally listed as endangered

ALABAMA
+ BLOWING WIND CAVE
Bat species: Gray bats* (maternity colony of approx. 500,000)
Best time to see bats: Summer
Interpretive programs: Interpretive sign; ranger-led programs available for groups, upon request
Special attractions: Largest bat emergence in eastern U.S., lasts an hour or more
Open: Year-round
Where: 7 mi. SE of Scottsboro on I-72; just after crossing Sauty Creek Embayment, turn left on first road, park near gate and walk 100 yds. to conspicuous lower cave entrance
For more information: Tuck Stone, Manager, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Rt. 4, Box 250, Decatur, AL 35603; 205-350-6639

+ HAMBRICK CAVE
Bat species: Gray bats* (maternity colony of approx. 250,000)
Best time to see bats:Summer
No interpretive programs
Special attractions: Unusual opportunity to see large numbers of bats exiting over a lake; bass fishing
Open: Year-round
Where: Accessible by boat only; cave is approx. 2 mi. upstream from Guntersville Dam, NW of Guntersville; boat rentals available in Honeycomb Creek area
For more information: Judith Bartlow, Natural Areas Coordinator, Tennessee Valley Authority, Natural Resources Bldg., Norris, TN 78828; 615-632-1592

ARIZONA
ARIZONA-SONORA DESERT MUSEUM
Bat species: Big brown bats (maternity colony), western pipistrelles, pallid bats, lesser long-nosed bats*
Best time to see bats: Summers for wild populations; year-round for display of captive pallid bats in artificial crevice roost
Interpretive programs: "Night-stalkers" program Saturday evenings in July; naturalists use bat detector, sometimes net bats and show to visitors; new interpretive display on long-nosed bats and relation to saguaro cactus
Open: Summers 7 am-6 am; Winter 8:30 am-5 pm
Where: 12 mi. W of Tucson, I-10 to Speedway exit, W to end of road, turn right on Kinney Rd.
For more information: Peter Siminski, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, 2021 N. Kinney Road, Tucson, AZ 85743; 602-883-1380

MILE HI/RAMSEY CANYON PRESERVE (a Nature Conservancy preserve)
Bat species: Lesser long-nosed bats*; Mexican long-nosed bats
Best time to see bats: Mid-Aug. to mid-Sept.
Interpretive programs: Guided hikes and talks on weekends include the preserve's bats; Nature Conservancy annual field trip (Sept.) focuses on bats, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Special attractions: A rare opportunity to see nectar-feeding bats coming to hummingbird feeders at night; more than 150 bird species; guided tours available; cabins by reservation
Open: Year-round; visitation by reservation only
Where: 90 mi. SE of Tucson in the Huachuca Mountains; Hwy 92. S from Sierra Vista to Ramsey Canyon Road
For more information: Sheri Williams, Guest Services Manager, Mile Hi/Ramsey Canyon Preserve, R.R. 1, Box 84, Ramsey Canyon Rd., Hereford, AZ 85615; 602-378-2785

ARKANSAS
DEVIL'S DEN STATE PARK
Bat species: 10 species, including rare Ozark big-eared bats* (hibernating population)
Best time to see bats: Summer
Interpretive programs: Active bat education program; naturalist-guided hikes to bat hibernaculum (entering strictly prohibited); Missouri-style bat shelter; BCI slide programs used
Special attractions: Annual Bat-0-Rama (June 14-16, 1991) includes bat-related festivities and a series of special programs given by guest wildlife biologists; hiking, camping
Open: Year-round
Where: 25 mi. S of Fayetteville; Hwy. 71, exit Hwy. 74, W 18 mi. (numerous switchbacks, if pulling trailer, enter park from West Fork, Hwy. 170 W 13 mi.)
For more information: Harry Harnish, Park Interpreter, Devil's Den State Park, West Fork, AK 72774; 501-761-3326

CALIFORNIA
+ POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE
Bat species: 14 species, including yuma myotis, Mexican free-tailed bats, Townsend's big-eared bats, California myotis
Best time to see bats: Apr.-Aug.
Interpretive programs: Occasional, mostly in fall and winter
Special attractions: Yuma myotis emerge at dusk from the red barn at Park Headquarters (entering strictly prohibited); abundant wildlife, including the uncommon sea elephant; hiking, back country camping
Open: Year-round
Where: Hwy. 1, N of San Francisco
For more information: John Dell'Osso, Park Ranger, Point Reyes National Seashore, Point Reyes, CA 94956; 415-663-1092

IDAHO
FARRAGUT STATE PARK
Bat species: Big brown bats, little brown bats, yuma myotis
Best time to see bats: May-Sept., feeding along lakeshore
Interpretive programs: Park actively interprets bats; bat houses along trails; interpretive display on bats; campfire programs; BCI slide program used
Special attractions: At foot of Coeur d'Alene and Bitterroot Mountain ranges on Lake Pend Oreille; hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, camping
Open: Year-round
Where: 20 mi. N of Coeur d'Alene, 4 mi. E of junction of U.S. 95 and State Hwy. 54
For more information: Lucy Parker, Park Ranger, Farragut State Park, E. 13800 Ranger Road, Athol, ID 83801; 208-683-2425

INDIANA
CHAIN O' LAKES STATE PARK
Bat species: Big brown bats, little brown bats
Best time to see bats: Mid to late summer around campground
Interpretive programs: Ongoing programs include bats; several programs each season focus specifically on bats, last weekend in Oct. features bats
Special attractions: Hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, camping
Open: Year-round; naturalist-directed activities May-Oct.
Where: 30 mi. NW of Ft. Wayne, SR 33 N 4 mi. to SR 9
For more information: Susan Beck, Naturalist, Chain O' Lakes State Park, 2355 E. 75 S, Albion, IN 46701; 219-636-2654

SPRING MILL STATE PARK
Bat species: 10 species, including little brown bats, big brown bats, eastern pipistrelles
Best time to see bats: Summer; may be encountered in caves open to public
Interpretive programs: Interpretive display on bats of Indiana; naturalists discuss bats on cave tours and periodically give talks specifically on bats
Special attractions: Naturalist tours of several of park's numerous caves; hiking, boating, fishing, camping
Open: Year-round
Where: 3 mi. E of Mitchell on Hwy. 60
For more information: Tim Cordell, Park Naturalist, Spring Mill State Park, P.O. Box 376, Mitchell, IN 47446; 812-849-4129

WYANDOTTE CAVES STATE RECREATION AREA
Bat species: Little brown bats, eastern pipistrelles, gray bats,* Indiana bats*
Best time to see bats: Nov.-Apr.
Interpretive programs: A unique opportunity to view hibernating bats without disturbance; bats interpreted during cave tours
Special attractions: Guided tours through several different caves, guided "spelunking" tours also available
Open: Year-round
Where: I-64 to Corydon or Leavenworth exits in Harrison Crawford State Forest
For more information: Roger Gleitz, Wyandotte Caves State Recreation Area, RR 1, Box 85, Leavenworth, IN 47137; 812-738-2782

MINNESOTA
ITASCA STATE PARK
Bat species: Little brown bats
Best time to see bats: Summer
Interpretive programs: Creature-feature program highlights bats; summer afternoon programs; bats often seen exiting park buildings during guided night walks in summer
Open: May-Oct. and winter weekends
Where: Approx. 22 mi. N on Hwy. 71 from Park Rapids, 5 mi. NW on Hwy. 200
For more information: Elizabeth Murray, Itasca State Park, Lake Itasca, MN 56460; 218-266-3654

MISSOURI
BENNETT SPRING STATE PARK
Bat species: Big brown bats, little brown bats, eastern pipistrelles, red bats, hoary bats
Best time to see bats: Mid-summer
Interpretive programs: Bat programs given every other week during summer, evening bat walk follows; BCI slide program used
Open: Year-round
Where: 12 mi. W of Lebanon on Hwy. 64, located on 64A
For more information: Diane Tucker, Naturalist, Bennett Spring State Park, Rt. 16, Box 750, Lebanon, MO 65536; 417-532-3925

LAKE OF THE OZARKS STATE PARK/OZARK CAVERNS
Bat species: Big brown bats, little brown bats, eastern pipistrelles, red bats, gray bats*
Best time to see bats: Mar.-Oct.; bats may encountered on public tours in cave
Interpretive programs: Programs in spring through fall include bats; guided nature hikes; bat ecology is stressed during cave tours; BCI slide program used
Special attractions: Guided tours of Ozark Caverns; hiking, horseback riding, swimming, fishing, boating, camping
Open: Year-round
Where: 50 mi. S of Jefferson City on Hwy. 54, 8 1/2 mi. on County Rd. A
For more information: Tom Nagel, Naturalist, Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Box 170, Kaiser, MO 65047; 314-348-2694; Cindy Hall, Naturalist, Ozark Caverns, Rt. 1, Box 371, Linn Creek, MO 65052, 314-346-2500

MEREMEC STATE PARK
Bat species: Big brown bats, little brown bats, eastern pipistrelles, red bats, hoary bats, Keen's bats, gray bats*, Indiana bats*
Best time to see bats: Apr.-Oct.
Interpretive programs: Evening campground amphitheater programs twice monthly on park's bats; naturalist-led walks; bats discussed on public tours of Fisher Cave (bats often encountered)
Special attractions: Cave tours; hiking, canoeing, tubing, fishing, swimming, camping
Open: Park open year-round; Fisher Cave open Apr.-Oct.
Where: I-44 to Hwy. 185, S 3 mi.
For more information: Dan Drees, Meremec State Park, H.C. 65, Box 4, Sullivan, MO 63080; 314-468-8155

MONTAUK STATE PARK
Bat species: Big brown bats, little brown bats, eastern pipistrelles
Best time to see bats: Summer evenings feeding over well-lit trout-rearing ponds
Interpretive programs: Evening programs during summer discuss bats; BCI slide program used
Special attractions: Nature trails, trout fishing, canoeing, camping
Open: Year-round
Where: 22 mi. SW of Salem at junction of Hwy. 119 and County Rd. VV
For more information: Marion Gooding, Park Naturalist, Montauk State Park, Rt. 5, Box 279, Salem, MO 65560; 314-548-2201

ONONDAGA CAVE STATE PARK
Bat species: Big brown bats, little brown bats, eastern pipistrelles, silver-haired bats, Keen's bats, small-footed bats, gray bats*, Indiana bats*
Best time to see bats: Summer evenings; mornings and evenings on public cave tours in spring and fall
Interpretive programs: Interpretive display on bats; bats discussed on cave tours and on night walks with bat detector; some evening programs devoted exclusively to bats; special group programs may be arranged in advance; BCI slide programs used
Special attractions: Guided cave tours; hiking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, camping
Open: Year-round, except Thanksgiving and Christmas; cave tours Mar.-Oct.
Where: At end of State Rd. H, off I-44 near Leasburg
For more information: Eugene Vale, Onondaga Cave State Park, Rt. 1, Box 115, Leasburg, MO 65535; 314-245-6576

+ ROCK BRIDGE MEMORIAL STATE PARK
Bat species: Big brown bats, little brown bats, eastern pipistrelles, gray bats*, Indiana bats*
Best time to see bats: Summer for bat flight; fall and spring during public cave trips
Interpretive programs: Park stresses environmental education, cave ecology and conservation; bats featured on naturalist-led walks; regular evening programs to see bat emergence
Special attractions: Fall and spring adult education trips into the Devil's Icebox, a wild cave, varying degrees of difficulty for novice and experienced caver; self-guiding interpretive trail
Open: Park open year-round; cave closed Apr. 1-Aug. 31 to protect gray bat maternity colony
Where: 4 mi. S of Columbia on Hwy. 163
For more information: Joe Blum, Park Naturalist, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, 5901 S. Highway 163, Columbia, MO 65203; 314-449-7402

MONTANA
LEWIS AND CLARK CAVERNS STATE PARK
Bat species: Townsend's big-eared bats (maternity colony)
Best time to see bats: Late July through August, when young are flying
Interpretive programs: Interpretive display on bats; campfire programs; bats discussed during cave tours
Special attractions: Guided cave tours; bats can be seen except during first two weeks in July when colony is sensitive to disturbance; nature trail, picnicking
Open: May 1-Sept. 30
Where: I-90 to Route 2, S to park
For more information: Lee Flath, Park Operations Specialist, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, P.O. Box 648, Whitehall, MT 59759; 406-287-3541

NEW MEXICO
+ BANDELIER NATIONAL MONUMENT
Bat species: 12 species, including Mexican free-tailed bats, yuma myotis
Best time to see bats: Summer
Interpretive programs: Bats discussed on guided hikes; campfire talks on bats; active bat research program (volunteers used)
Special attractions: Free-tailed bat cave above main trail; check at visitor center about dusk emergence (viewing may or may not be possible, depending on availability of guide); Pueblo Indian ruins; hiking, camping
Open: Year-round
Where: Hwy. 84/285 N from Santa Fe, 20 mi. to Hwy. 502, W 16 mi. to Hwy. 4, follow signs to park
For more information: Chris Judson, Park Ranger, HCR 1, Box 1, Ste. 15, Los Alamos, NM 87544; 505-672-3861

+ CARLSBAD CAVERNS NATIONAL PARK
Bat species: 16 species, including big free-tailed bats, pallid bats, western pipistrelles, and Mexican free-tailed bats (250,000 in main cave)
Best time to see bats: Summer (present spring through fall)
Interpretive programs: Interpretive displays in visitor center; amphitheater bat program before evening bat flights in summer
Special attractions: Dusk bat flight can last as long as two hours in late summer; special annual bat-flight breakfast to celebrate bats' dawn return (call for date and reservations); self-guiding tours into famous Carlsbad Cavern, ranger-guided tours into New Cave
Open: Year-round, except Christmas
Where: Hwy. 62/180 SW 20 mi. from Carlsbad to White City, follow signs to park, 7 mi. to visitor center
For more information: Superintendent, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, 3225 National Parks Hwy., Carlsbad, NM 8820; 505-785-2232

NEW YORK
CONNETQUOT RIVER STATE PARK PRESERVE
Bat species: Big brown bats, little brown bats
Best time to see bats: Late spring to early fall
Interpretive programs: Bat houses along trails; park's bats included in regular interpretive programs; bat detector and BCI slide program used
Special attractions: Special "Thank Goodness for Bats" program given on specific dates spring through fall, includes night walk; bats can be seen around park buildings and during guided night walks; hiking, trout fishing
Open: Year-round, by permit only
Where: Sunshine Hwy. from Oakdale, Long Island
For more information: Gary Lawton, P.O. Box 505, Oakdale, NY 11769; 516-581-1005

TENNESSEE
+ NICKAJACK CAVE
Bats species: Gray bats* (maternity colony of approx. 100,000), Indiana bats* (hibernating population)
Best time to see bats: Late Apr. to early Oct.; binoculars helpful
Interpretive programs: Interpretive kiosk; volunteers present on specific dates to help answer questions and to give brief programs
Special attractions: Observation platform allows rare opportunity to see dusk flight of endangered bats leaving cave--emergence lasts about 45 minutes
Open: Year-round
Where: 20 mi. W of Chattanooga, I-24 W to New Hope/Haletown exit, SW on Hwy. 156, 5 mi. to TVA Maple View Public Use Area, follow trail to platform
For more information: Judith Bartlow, Natural Areas Coordinator, Tennessee Valley Authority, Natural Resources Bldg., Norris, TN 78828; 615-632-1592

WARRIORS' PATH STATE PARK
Bat species: Big brown bats, little brown bats, red bats, evening bats
Best time to see bats: Summer
Interpretive programs: Park emphasizes conservation education, especially to youth; regularly scheduled night walks; bats often spotted and discussed during campfire talks; BCI slide programs used
Special attractions: Hiking, horseback riding, boating, fishing, camping
Open: Year-round
Where: 2 mi. SE of Kingsport, exit 59 off I-81
For more information: Marty Silver, Park Naturalist, Warriors' Path State Park, P.O. Box 5026, Kingsport, TN 37663; 615-239-8531

TEXAS
+ CONGRESS AVENUE BRIDGE, AUSTIN
Bat species: Mexican free-tailed bats (varies seasonally from 250,000 to 1.5 million)
Best time to see bats: Apr.-Oct., best July-Aug (mid-Aug. always spectacular)
Interpretive programs: Kiosk describing colony located along hike and bike trail east of bridge, below Four Seasons Hotel
Special attractions: Large bat flight with up to five columns departing over river, easily seen from hike and bike trail or from bridge
Where: S of Capitol Bldg. on Congress Avenue, bridge over Town Lake
For more information: Bat Conservation International, P.O. Box 162603, Austin, TX 78716; 512-327-9721

+ ECKERT JAMES RIVER BAT CAVE (a Texas Nature Conservancy preserve)
Bat species: Mexican free-tailed bats (4 million)
Best time to see bats: May-Oct.; best July-Sept.
Interpretive programs: Kiosk describing colony; bat programs on specific dates
Special attractions: Spectacular bat flight can be observed at close range
Open: May 1-Oct. 31 (tentative)
Where: Near Mason, call for detailed directions
For more information: Sharon Reynolds, Texas Nature Conservancy, P.O. Box 1440, San Antonio, TX 78295; 512-224-8774

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If you have a favorite place where you go to see bats or know of a park that regularly includes bats in its interpretive programs, please write and let us know. An expanded Vacationer's Guide to Bats, which will also include foreign locations, zoos, and museums, is planned for publication in spring 1992. Your input is welcome and encouraged. Please direct comments on your visit to parks listed or suggestions for additional listings to Mari Murphy, Editor.

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All articles in this issue:
ON THE COVER
A VACATIONER'S GUIDE TO BATS
BATS in South American Folklore and Ancient Art
VAMPIRES: THE REAL STORY
Poland's Unique Bat Reserve: A Resource in Trouble
WISH LIST
An Avalanche of Mail
Caught in the Crossfire

Unless otherwise noted, all images are copyright ©Merlin D. Tuttle and/or ©Bat Conservation International