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Man-Made Batcaves: 6 Unnatural Places Where Winged Rodents Have Taken Roost


Oh hello. Thanks for the house. (Photo: ITU Pictures on Flickr)

Gotham City isn’t the only place with a batcave. All over the world, bats have taken advantage of the cozy nooks and crannies created by us gullible humans. From abandoned tunnels to freeway underpasses, bats have set up shop in the dark corners of the modern world like it’s no big deal. Whether it’s due to the adaptability of winged rodents, or our continued creation of shadowy space, we keep creating bat caves in our own backyards. Here is a look at six unnatural spots where bats have taken roost.


1. CONGRESS AVENUE BRIDGE
Austin, Texas


People actually come to this bridge to get swarmed by bats. (Photo: Eric on Flickr)

Austin is home to a number of hip sites, but maybe the coolest is the largest colony of urban bats in America. These street-wise Mexican free-tails have hung their hats (and themselves) beneath the Congress Bridge. On dry summer nights, the one and a half million bats under the bridge like little, flying trolls come bursting out in swarming black masses, often to the delight of onlookers standing above. Seeing bats display all of their urban resourcefulness sure beats waiting in ATM lines at SXSW.   


Everything is bigger in Texas. Even the bat colonies. (Photo: Dan Pancamo on Wikipedia)


2. STUMPHOUSE TUNNEL
Walhalla, South Carolina


  Walk towards the light. That’s where bats aren’t. (Photo: MarkScottAustinTX on Flickr)

The first of a few such tunnels on this list, the Stumphouse Tunnel in Walhalla was created as the beginning of a railway tunnel, but after the project was abandoned, an empty cave tunnel was all that was left, just filling up with bats. Work on the Stumphouse Tunnel first started in the 1800s, the idea being that a train tunnel could be simply dug through a mountain, not around it. The theory was sound, but the funding was not, and when the money dried up, the tunnel was abandoned. It was later used to age cheese thanks to the cool, constant temperatures inside the cave. This pleasant environment also attracted the colony of bats that live there now.


Before entering any great bat-cave, one must pass through a great bat-hole. (Photo: The_Gut on Flickr)


3. THE BURLINGTON HOTEL
Port Costa, California

The Burlington Hotel
Let’s be honest, this looks like the type of place that would have bats. (Photo: Shannon OHaire on Atlas Obscura)

The oldest operating hotel in California has seen a countless number of guests stay the night behind its walls, but the only permanent residents in the building today are bats. Opened in 1883, the hotel quickly became the favored boarding house for travelers coming off the Trans-Continental train, and getting violently sauced in the saloon across the street. Remarkably, the little hotel managed to stay afloat for more than a century, despite its continued reputation for debauchery. Recently the owners are making efforts to clean up the space, and refurbish the building but so far, the bats living in the ceilings and walls remain.  

The front door of the hotel
That couple is in for a bat-filled evening. (Photo: Shannon OHaire on Atlas Obscura)


4. OLD TUNNEL BAT COLONY
Fredricksburg, Texas


Definitely not an old rail tunnel full of screeching bats. No way. (Photo: Larry D. Moore on Wikipedia)

Closed since 1941, the perfectly named Old Tunnel is a railroad tunnel that actually saw some use before being made obsolete with the rise of the automobile. Well, obsolete to humans at least. Once it was abandoned, the empty expanse became home to millions of Mexican free-tailed bats. During the summer months, the bats come surging from the tunnel mouth in a writhing black cloud. Visitors can watch the emergence from a couple of spots, including one behind glass for the faint of heart.   


5. DULARCHA RAIL TUNNEL
Landsborough, Australia

Dularcha Rail Tunnel
This bold cameraman doesn’t seem to known this is bat turf. (Photo: darkday on Flickr)

This abandoned Australian tunnel was created for a sight-seeing train that ran through the lush wilderness of Dularcha National Park, but when the line was moved, the long cement passage was left to hikers, explorers, and of course, bats. Unlike some of the craggier tunnels on this list, the Dularcha passage is a clean cement arch with little place for flying rodents to find purchase. Nonetheless a small colony of beasts have managed to find some small cracks and crevices, where they have been able to make a home. It is a micro-colony, but the airborne vermin maintain their foothold anyway.    

Dularcha Rail Tunnel
Do bats see in black and white? Trick question!, They’re nearly blind! (Photo: Nate3856 on Atlas Obscura)


6. THE OSTWALL FORTIFICATION
Międzyrzecz, Poland

The Ostwall Fortification
My, what a delightful Nazi tunne-OHGODBAT! (Photo: Leszek Kozlowski on Flickr)

The Nazi defensive complex known as the Ostwall Fortification has been abandoned since the war. Well, other than the 37,000 bats living in the old tunnels. The sprawling underground military complex was built to defend against Russian attacks, and probably would have been able to had the base not been staffed with only 1,000 troops. The Nazis were quickly routed, leaving behind 25 miles of underground passageways and chambers. Today the vast warren is home to the largest man-made bat reserve in the world. Luckily the base is better at protecting bats than it was at protecting Nazis.   

The Ostwall Fortification
One tunnel leads to bats, while the other leads to bats. (Photo: Michael on Flickr)