Bats! Bats! Bats! Waugh Bridge Bat Colony – Unique Things to do in Houston

Waugh Bridge at Dusk
Address:  Bridge at Waugh and Alan Parkway
Cost:  Free!
Hours:  Every evening at dusk

Waugh Bridge Bat ColonyThis is Alex!  My kids, ages 6 and 4, and I are on a mission to discover fun things to do in the Heights area. This week we visited the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony and thoroughly enjoyed it!

You can park in some of the parking spaces along Allen Parkway (arrive early for these spots, since space is limited). There is also parking available at Spotts Park. You can view the bats from either the north bank or south bank of Buffalo Bayou. However, I think we had a terrific view form the south bank (the Allen Parkway side of the bayou). The bats fly out from under the Waugh Street bridge around sunset, but you can still arrive early to read up on some of the facts that are posted on the south side of the bayou. There is also a viewing deck here where you can stand if you prefer that over sitting in the grass.

Waugh Bridge Bat Colony If you arrive 20-30 minutes before sunset you may even catch a bat presentation given by a volunteer from Texas Parks & Wildlife. These presentations are given on the viewing deck. And as an added bonus you can also take in a beautiful view of the downtown skyline from this platform. Even on nights when there is no scheduled presentation you can enjoy watching the bats begin to descend from under the bridge and gather before their nightly flight.  We arrived around 8:05pm and sunset was at 8:25pm the night we went. We actually stayed about an hour to see the bats as the bats do not all fly out at once but rather in groups.

There are a few rules to keep in mind, such as not standing under the bridge when the bats begin their flight, not using flash photography or screaming. This is to not disturb the bats as they begin their flight.  We packed a blanket so that we could be comfortable Waugh Bridge Bat Colonysitting on the hill while we waited. I also suggest taking bug spray. We forgot to put some on but didn’t suffer too badly.  Perhaps it was due to the Mexican Free-Tailed Bats that we were so anxiously awaiting. This particular species eats insects, fruit and nectar, not humans. I had to reassure my 4 year old that they were not vampire bats!

This is a great experience for the entire family. My husband and I were just amazed that about 300,000 bats live under the bridge that we drive over almost daily. The kids were amazed to see so many bats flying at once, following the same pattern until they disappeared from sight into the city. You can go here to find out more information about the bat colony at the Waugh St Bridge. Go here for information on the next Bat Chats.

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Waugh Bridge Bat Colony

Waugh Bridge at Dusk
Address: Waugh Street Bridge, North of Allen Parkway and South of Buffalo Bayou.
Cost: Free
Appropriate Age: Any age

Bats? You want to see 250,000 bats emerge from the Waugh Street Bridge? Are they scary bats?  Are you sure?  Okay fine, jump in the car. (That’s my side of the conversation from Saturday night.)

At Waugh and Allen Parkway, there is a colony of about 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats living in the gaps under the Waugh Bridge. Each night, summer and winter, they emerge to eat insects. People can view the bats from the observation deck, the Waugh Bridge or the hillside.

Waugh Bridge Bat Viewing Platform
So why this bridge? Apparently this bridge was designed with expansion joints that happen to be just the right size for the Mexican free-tailed bat.

I am not a big bat fan, but I am a big “see everything in Houston” advocate, so I took my kids to the Waugh Street Bridge Bat Colony at 8:00pm on Saturday night. We found a spot to park next to the Gus M. Wortham Memorial Fountain (just off of Allen Parkway) but many more free parking spots can be found at Spotts Park, located at 401 S. Heights Boulevard at Memorial Drive.

Waiting for the Bats at Waugh Bridge
The bats generally emerge at sunset, but not always. If it is rainy, they emerge later. If it’s cold (below 50°F), they may not emerge at all. We went at 8:00pm and it was too early. On this June night, the bats came out around 8:45pm.

While we waited, the kids played on the grassy slope and observation deck. As the sun went down, many more people came to watch the event. Probably 50 people watched as the bats started to circle under the bridge.

 

After several minutes of this, they started to emerge in big groups, flying towards downtown.

 

Although the wait threatened to bore my kids, they did like watching the show.  And it wasn’t even scary for their mom.  It was a little (or a lot) stinky and Joe and Brooke’s only concern was that they would get bat potty on their heads.

 Don’t worry, we departed bat-potty-free and we will definitely be back for this free show.  Next time we’ll check the sunset time and plan to arrive just ahead of it.   When the kids are bigger, we may even try the Bat Colony Pontoon Boat Tour.

Joe Looking for Bats

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