Bats have inhabited Austin since the beginning of the city in 1839; however, people haven’t always been welcome to them. In fact, in the mid 1980s the city actually petitioned to have them eradicated completely. The Congress Avenue Bridge renovation in 1980 created a wider deck, bigger piers, and narrower steel beams with cracks and crevices - perfect for a bat colony. By 1984 the colony grew to roughly 750,000 bats. The huge spike in the bat population created a fear of rabies, and a public health crisis ensued forcing the city to consider filling in all the cracks and crevices to prevent bat roosts from forming.
In 1985, Bat Conservation International had become aware of Austin’s bat problem, and in an effort to save the colony, relocated its headquarters to Austin, Texas. Bat Conservation International launched educational campaigns about the benefits of bats for eating mosquitos and other pests, and their low occurrences of rabies. Shortly after their arrival, the city had changed its mind about bats and began to see them as Austin residents. Since then, Austin has uniquely been nicknamed “Bat City” because during the spring and summer months there are more bats than people.
The world’s largest urban Mexican free-tailed bat colony resides beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge! At an estimated 1.5 million, it is arguably one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city - attracting roughly 100,000 people annually. If you haven’t seen the bats for yourself, the best way to watch them is by boat; when the colony emerges you are right below them for a breathtakingly perfect view and a city skyline backdrop.
Starting in mid-April, we partner with Capital Cruises to bring you Bat Tuesday. Bat Tuesday is a great way to cruise on Town Lake, and check out the bats at sunset. Enjoy complimentary cocktails, food from our local favorites, and Off Key DJ Productions will be dropping some beats on the upper deck.