Nature

Texas’ Smallest and Spookiest State Park

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Thirteen miles south of Fredericksburg down the Old San Antonio Road, nestled in the cedar covered hills, kind of in the middle of nowhere, you will find a couple of parking lots. At first glance, you’ll think, what? Then you’ll see a sign announcing the Old Tunnel State Park.

Recent improvements brought this from a Wildlife Management Area to a State Park — a Ranger on staff, a set of composting toilets, an expanded viewing deck. People will be milling around, some having a picnic in a pavilion at the edge of a cliff, others reading information on bulletin boards, and a few gazing up into the sky. Some will have been at the adjacent Alamo Springs Cafe and are full of famous hamburgers.

This is the upper viewing area, for which there is no fee.

Old Tunnel Upper Viewing Area

Photo: Robert C. Deming

The license plates in the parking lots are evidence that people come from all over the country to this tiny park. Everyone knows why they are here, but there are lots of questions. Fortunately, this state park has lots of volunteer interpreters, and answers abound.  The biggest question is answered on a white-board: what time the emergence is expected that evening.

The Old Tunnel, Fredericksburg & Northern Railroad

Old Railroad Tunnel

Photo: Robert C. Deming

The tunnel is 920 feet long, and if you look closely, you can see the light at the other end of the tunnel. What you can’t see in this photo is that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bats flying inside the tunnel. The railroad operated from 1913 to 1942; the bats didn’t move in until the railroad track was removed and trains no longer traveled this route.

Bats take to flight by the millions.

Old Tunnel Bats
Photo: Facebook/Old Tunnel State Park, Texas Parks and Wildlife

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