Bats, Big Sky, and Deep Holes

As you may or may not know, I went on vacation earlier this month.  Last week, we talked about my visit to Luckenbach, Texas.  Today, we’ll talk about my visit to The Devil’s Sinkhole, which is on the far western edge of the Texas Hill Country.


The Devil’s Sinkhole is located in Edwards County, Texas.  If you want a point of reference, it’s approximately two hundred miles west of Austin, Texas.  This excursion was a little off the beaten path for us, but we considered it a new adventure.

The Devil’s Sinkhole is just what it sounds like—a hole so deep its early discoverers thought it went all the way to Hell.  It’s the largest single chambered cavern in Texas.  At its deepest point, the Devil’s Sinkhole measures 361 feet deep, making it the third deepest cavern in Texas. The sinkhole is a Nationally Registered Natural Landmark.

Click here for some pictures of inside the cave.  At the Devil’s Sinkhole’s bottom are two crystal clear lakes, which have been explored up to eleven meters deep by divers, who could find no significant passages.

The interior of the cave is not open to the general public, though, so we didn’t get to see any of that cool stuff.  Before we went on the tour, a video was presented that had the coolest interior pictures.  Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find it online.

 

If you watched the first video, you know the draw of the cave is the bats. The Devil’s Sinkhole is the summer home of up to four million Mexican Free-Tailed bats.

 

This species of bat is considered one of the most abundant mammals in North America and is not on any federal lists.  The Mexican Free-Tailed bats, however, roost in relatively few spots.  Because of this, they are particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction.

The Devil’s Sinkhole  bats roost in the cave during the day.  Evenings, people gather to watch the bats leave the cave for their nightly hunt.

This summer, because of the drought, there were significantly fewer bats than usual. The pictures we got were less than stellar. However, the students of Leakey, Texas put together an excellent video that will give you an idea what this experience is like.

As the bats began their nightly flight, an owl came to watch them. A few times, the owl swooped into the bats and snagged a quick dinner. I don’t think they showed that part on the video. It was pretty interesting to watch, though.

The Mexican Free-Tailed bat, our tour guide told us, prefers moths. The Devil’s Sinkhole bats fly sixty miles from Rocksprings to Uvalde, Texas each night to feast on moths.

 

Our tour guide also said bats have more personality than you’d think.  They display a full range of emotions, making them easy to bond with.  Though he was careful to tell us keeping bats for pets is illegal, he said some rescue workers get quite attached to the bats they rehabilitate.

That far west, the landscape looks like one of those old spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood.  The sky is big and endless. The dirt is white and rocky.  The air is dry.

I expected to see the silhouette of lone a horseman watching us from a ridge in the distance. The sunset was amazing.

As the sun set, the flying bats became little dots in the big sky.  Dark fell, and the sound of their beating wings and their high pitched chirps were the only indicators they were still around.

 

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