Tickets for the Selman Bat Watch Available Through June 7

6 minutes
The Selman Bat Watch takes place on privately owned land not far from Freedom.

The Selman Bat Watch takes place on privately owned land not far from Freedom.

Have I mentioned I'm an Oklahoma travel nerd? I've spent more birthdays—and managed to coerce my family into spending their birthdays—at Oklahoma destinations from Black Mesa to Beavers Bend. And since my mom, my brother, my grandma Pearl, and so many more of our relatives are Leos, this often means vacations in summer's dead heat, which can be a blessing (good golf weather!) and a curse (So. Much. Heat.).

But without fail, one of the best events happening right around my birthday (July 23 if you're shopping) is the Selman Bat Watch. This Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation event gives Oklahomans a front-row seat in the high plains near Alabaster Caverns State Park as thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats pour from a limestone cave to feed every night.

Oh, but it's so much more than that. The evening begins at Alabaster Caverns, where helpful and hilarious rangers conduct a small learning program—complete with song and dance about echolocation that always warms my nerdy, science-loving heart—before loading Bat Watchers up on the bus to drive out to the Selman cave site.

Prairie grasses near the Selman bat cave. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Prairie grasses near the Selman bat cave. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Once there, they take trekkers a quick nature walk while the sun begins to set. The jaunt follows a short, scenic prairie trail during which rangers show off the beautiful prairie grasses, sand plums growing along the trail (we used to pick those from the sides of Custer County roads when I was a kid, and my dad would make jelly out of them), and the way the Eastern redcedars, though beautiful, are ecologically problematic for the plains ecosystem.

Wild sand plums near the Selman bat cave. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Wild sand plums near the Selman bat cave. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Then, guests grab a seat (bring your camp chairs) as sunset darkens, and the bats begin emerging. They are a trickle at first, black, fluttering shapes against the indigo sky. Soon, however, a full-on column of little flying mammals emerges from the cave to spend the night feasting on insects.

Mexican free-tailed bats like these are Oklahoma's official flying mammal. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Mexican free-tailed bats like these are Oklahoma's official flying mammal. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Though the soft rush of wings overhead sounds a little like a river, the bats never come close enough to touch, much less bother, visitors to the Selman Bat Watch. They're too busy looking for bugs to eat. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Though the soft rush of wings overhead sounds a little like a river, the bats never come close enough to touch, much less bother, visitors to the Selman Bat Watch. They're too busy looking for bugs to eat. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Here and there, an owl or other bird of prey will strike at the column, grabbing some unsuspecting bat for its own dinner. The sound of leathery wings sounds like a river running overhead, interrupted only by oohs and aahs from the gathered Bat Watchers. Afterward, attendees who aren't done being awed by nature can head to the UCO Star Party, which occurs nearby.

Photo by Lucas Pezeta from Pexels

Photo by Lucas Pezeta from Pexels

It's a unforgettable event every Oklahoman must experience, but here's the catch: There are eight viewing nights throughout July; tickets are $14 for adults and $8 for children eight to twelve (and they say Thursdays are the best night to bring kids, who must be eight years old or older to attend); and there are only seventy-five spots per night, so tickets are very limited and are awarded by lottery.

Also, the lottery closes June 7, which is this Friday.

So visit the Selman Bat Watch website, get your application, and send it off ASAP, because this is a rare and beautiful sight and a great road trip. And if you're lucky enough to score tickets, may I suggest staying the night in nearby Woodward, adding in a trip to Boiling Springs State Park (a great place to camp if you're into that), and eating at great local spots like Cafe Paradee or Hector Y Amigos, both of which have appeared in our Food Worth the Drive piece over the years.

Trust me: If you're looking for a road trip this July—something educational but fun, outdoorsy but not too hot—the Selman Bat Watch has you covered.

Written By
Nathan Gunter

Nate is an enthusiastic runner and cyclist and frequently can be seen making his way by foot or pedal through Oklahoma City streets. When not working, Nate is reading, writing, watching movies, playing video games, working in his garden, attending concerts, or taking off on road trips.

Nathan Gunter
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