Nature

Old Tunnel State Park Hides a Surprising Secret in its Tunnel

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Don’t overlook the smallest state park in Texas, Old Tunnel State Park. Though tiny, this park has a big secret hiding inside its namesake tunnel. The park will not only give you plenty to do, especially in the summer and fall but also interest you with its history. Discover one of Texas’s overlooked gems at Old Tunnel State Park.

Park History

San Antonio Fredericksburg and Northern Railway Train

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Old Tunnel State Park recently became an addition to the state parks in 2012. Between 1991 and 2012, The Texas Parks and Wildlife designated it as a wildlife management area. Prior to that, the Fredericksburg and Northern Railway owned the tunnel and the train line that went through it. This rail line connected Fredericksburg with San Antonio until 1942 when the railway ceased operating due to an inability to make a profit.

The Park’s Big Secret

Millions of bats live at Old Tunnel State Park

Photo: Facebook/Old Tunnel State Park – Texas Parks & Wildlife

While it may appear to simply be an abandoned railway tunnel, the heart of Old Tunnel State Park hides a big secret. Within that tunnel live three million bats. Yes, millions. More bats live in the tunnel than in San Antonio and Austin, combined. The bats from the Old Tunnel State Park can eat 25 tons of insects nightly. That’s a lot of bugs!

When to Go

Bats emerging from Old Tunnel State Park

Photo: Facebook/Old Tunnel State Park – Texas Parks & Wildlife

If you want to see bats, visit the park between May and October. This is the prime bat-viewing season, and if you want to get a spot in one of the viewing areas, arrive early because the park staff does not take reservations or hold spots. The lower viewing area gives you a close-up view of the bats leaving the tunnel in addition to an educational talk about bats. Only 70 spaces are available here at a cost of $5 each. Most people opt for the upper viewing area, which has 250 seats and is free to the public. This higher area gives you a great view of the surrounding landscape while you wait for the bats to emerge.

What to Do

Natural wonders abound at Old Tunnel State Park

Photo: Facebook/Old Tunnel State Park – Texas Parks & Wildlife

While in the park, enjoy other activities aside from bat viewing. The 1.6-acre park has a one-half-mile nature trail that opens at sunrise. Hike here if you want a moderately challenging walk because the primitive trail does include some steep parts. If you prefer sitting to hiking, bring a picnic lunch to eat at the provided tables. Anywhere from the park, you can see birds and possibly wildlife. Make a trip to Old Tunnel State Park a part of your next journey into the Texas Hill Country for an unforgettable step into the past and a rare glimpse of nature.