The Best Place in the Southeast to Encounter Bats

This article is part of our daily Regional Highlights series which features unique businesses, attractions and events around the South (outside of Georgia.)

Imagine this: It’s a summer evening, and the moon is full. You’ve parked the car and taken a short walk into the forest, to a viewing platform.

You look up, and above you are over 250,000 gray bats soaring through the sky!

The Best Place in the Southeast to Encounter Bats
Courtesy of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Complex

According to Outdoor Alabama, Sauta Cave boasts the largest emergence of bats east of the Mississippi River, and contains the largest summer colony of Gray bats- a federally listed endangered species. 

You can see the bats May – September, but late summer is the best viewing time. Visitors are not allowed to enter the cave to see the bats, but you can stand on the viewing deck right outside the entrance.

If you make it there just as the bats are leaving the cave (right before “full dark”), you’ll get a great show that lasts as long as 45 minutes!

Bring a flashlight for your short walk to the cave, but please don’t shine it IN the cave because that is bad for the bats. Also, you probably want to wear some rain gear… even on a clear night. We’re talking about a LOT of bats potentially dropping you-know-what from above your head.

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Complex includes the Sauta Cave Refuge, and in years past they hold ranger-led talks at the bat cave in the evenings in August. I expect they will continue that, but watch their Facebook for details.

Fun fact… about 20 minutes up the road in the same complex is Fern Cave, which is home to the largest wintering colony of gray bats in the entire US. About 1,000,000! Plus, you’ll also find Indiana bats here.

The Fern Cave wilderness area is open to the public, but entrance into the cave requires a special permit.

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The Best Place in the Southeast to Encounter Bats