Mexican free-tailed bats at Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve
Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve Mexican free-tailed bats at Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve © Rich Kostecke/TNC

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Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve Opens to Visitors in Central Texas on Select Summer Dates

Mason County, TX

It’s bat season here in Texas and The Nature Conservancy’s Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve will open to the public for select nightly viewings this July and August. 

Situated in Mason County, just southwest of Mason, the Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve is home to one of the largest bat nurseries in the country. Each year, between May and September, approximately 2 million pregnant bats migrate to the site from Mexico to give birth, each to a single pup. The offspring are born between June and July and by just five weeks of age, have grown and are ready to fly. The nightly emergence of the full maternal bat colony – now doubled in size – offers an unparalleled natural display for visitors of the preserve, until the young bats and their mothers return to Mexico in October. 

The emergence begins slowly, with a few hundred bats fluttering around the mouth of the cave. Then, a larger stream of bats makes their exit, flying in a large circle, low to the ground, just outside the cave’s entrance. Gradually spiraling upwards, the dark funnel of bats – often referred to as a “bat tornado” – reaches several hundred feet into the sky before the bats stream away, over the countryside, as they scour thousands of acres searching for food. Experiencing this natural spectacle in person and learning about the critical ecology of the bat population through The Nature Conservancy’s corresponding presentations has now become a long-standing Central Texas tradition.

“We encourage visitors to come out and join us at the preserve’s open nights this summer and experience one of the best nature-viewing destinations in the state,” said Dan Snodgrass, Director of Land Conservation at The Nature Conservancy in Texas. 

The preserve will be open to the public on July 13th, 20th and 27th, as well as Aug. 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th, and the gates will open soon before the colony is typically emerging from the cave. As always, these dates and times are dependent on the weather and the recent flight activity of the bats; please call the Bat Cave hotline at (325) 347-5970 and listen to the recording for cave updates, open hours and any weather-related closures before making your trip out to the preserve. 

For more information, please visit nature.org/texas and our preserve page devoted to the Eckert James River Bat Cave

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.