Eckert James River Cave

Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve

Useful Information

Location: 25 km southwest of Mason. From Mason south on Hwy 87, still in Mason turn right onto FM 1723, after 3.8 km turn right onto FM 2389, after 7.8 km turn right on James River Rd, 13.3 km to the cave.
Open: Mid MAY to early OCT Thu-Sun 18-21.
Bat emerge depends on dusk.
OCT to APR no bats, no tours.
Fee: Adults USD 5, Children (0-5) free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: none
Dimension: 4 million female bats plus offspring
Guided tours:
Address: Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve, Vicki Ritter, James River Rd, Mason, Texas, Tel: +1-325-347-5970.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1907 land purchsed by the Eckert family.
1990 donated to the Nature Conservancy.


Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve is the home to Eckert James River Cave. The entrance to this cave forms a doline, a collapse in the cave ceiling with a cave portal at the bottom. The cave houses one of the largest colonies of Mexican Freetail bats in the world. In the evening the bats fly out of the cave entrance in a long, dark cloud to feed on insects. Between May and September the cave contains a roost, which means the bats flying out of the cave are the mothers who will return in the morning and lactate their still hairless children. Each bat mother gives birth to a single pup, mostly in June and Juli.

Bats are very helpful for humans as they feed on insects, each of the bat eats almost its own weight in insects, mosquitoes, moths and cutworms, every night. On the other hand their roosts are very vulnerable to human vandalism, this is why such sites are protected. Normal tourist may see a great performance, bats leaving the cave in a dark elongated cloud. But to enter the cave is only allowed for scientists and cavers. And it is rather dangerous and needs some preparation. The air is hot, humid, and full of dired bat guano dust. In order to avoid diseases the scientists wear masks filterig the air. Rubber boots are a good idea too, as the floor is full of insects feeding on the bat guano falling from the ceiling. It is important not to step on wet parts on the floor, as it is possible to sink in into half a meter or more of mud-like guano.

The ranch owner, W Philip Eckert, started mining the cave for the bat guano about a century ago. It was a valuable source of fertilizer, which he sold mainly to neighbours. But with the industrial production of fertilizer it became unprofitable. In the 1990 the cave was owned by his grandson, who donated it to the Nature Conservancy as a bat refuge.

The show starts daily about one to two hours before dusk. At first only a few hundreds of bats flutter around the cave portal, it looks as if they are testing if its already dark enough. Then the stream of bats increases, the emerging bats fly a large circle at the ground in front of the cave entrance. The bats begin to gradually spiral upwards and form a sort of funnel which finally reaches a heigth of more than 100 m. Then at last the bats at the top start to break off an form a stream or even multiple streams of bats flying away over the coutryside. This bat tornado lasts for about an hour.