The Other Best Spot for Bat-Watching on the Bayou

A Garden Oaks bridge boasts its own colony of Mexican free-tails—without the mass of onlookers.

By Katharine Shilcutt August 4, 2017

If you've driven past Waugh and Allen Parkway around dusk anytime in the past few years, you may have noticed the traffic jam of bat-watchers packed onto and around the viewing platform that affords a stunning view of the colony of 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats that emerge en masse from underneath the Waugh Drive bridge every evening.

There's something truly magical in experiencing this emergence as a group, a collective that's just ended their day's work observing another collective beginning their own important work (i.e., eating around two-and-a-half tons of pesky insects every night). But there's something equally magical about not having to battle crowds or circle endlessly looking for a parking spot.

For those evenings, there's another, often overlooked bat-viewing spot along the bayou: The Watonga Boulevard bridge along White Oak Bayou is home to approximately 100,000 Mexican free-tailed bats. Park benches and the grassy, gently sloping banks of the bayou provide ideal locations to sit and watch the bats glide along the water before heading into the night sky. Also ideal: these warm summer evenings, as the bats typically go dormant once temperatures drop below 50 degrees.

To get to the Garden Oaks-area bat colony, park in the lot at Watonga Blvd. and De Milo Drive (look for the green Watonga Parkway Park sign) and walk a few blocks north along the White Oak Bayou Greenway until you reach the part of Watonga that crosses the bayou and hits T.C. Jester Blvd.

If you really want to make a night of it, pick up some portable provisions from a nearby Houston institution: Both Mytiburger and Antone's Famous Po-Boys are right down the street. Grab a Baconburger and banana milkshake or a couple of beef brisket po-boys, and don't forget to bring a blanket and plenty of bug spray. You can't rely on the bats to eat every last mosquito.

Watonga Bridge Bat Colony, 4721 Watonga Blvd.

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