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Out on the western edge of the Texas Hill Country, just north of the little town of Rocksprings, you'll find the Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area (occasionally referred to as “Devil's Sinkhole State Park,” or just “Devil's Sinkhole Park”). Despite its ominous name—and peeking down into it from above, you might get a little vertigo—the Devil's Sinkhole is actually a fascinating natural formation to check out.
When most people hear the word “sinkhole,” they imagine a hole formed in a yard or city street that appears out of nowhere, usually after a period of heavy rainfall. The Devil's Sinkhole formed in much the same manner as those, only on a much larger scale and over a much longer period of time. Like much of the Edwards Plateau on which it's located, the Devil's Sinkhole rests on an enormous bed of limestone. Over thousands of years as rain fell in the region, the water took on slightly acidic characteristics from the minerals it picked up as it seeped into the ground. This acid solution, over time, slowly eroded the soft and porous limestone away, and formed a gigantic underground cistern filled with water, with a thin cap of limestone covering it. Eventually, the water level in the underground cavern dropped, and with nothing to support it anymore the fragile limestone crumbled downward, exposing the 140-foot deep shaft now known as the Devil's Sinkhole. That shaft leads to a cavern that's over 300 feet across, and plunges nearly 350 feet into the earth.
Guess who found that cavern a perfect place to call home? Bats. Lots and LOTS of bats. These little guys feed at sunset, when they swoop out of the sinkhole in a huge and swirling black ribbon that fills the sky. They come out hungry, too; scientific estimates suggest they may eat as much as 30 tons of insects every night! The natural area is open all year round, but the best time to see its main attraction is from late spring to early fall. Somewhere in the neighborhood of three million Mexican free-tailed bats consider the sinkhole their summer home, making it one of the largest colonies of the species in the Lone Star State. For this reason, and for its geological significance, the US National Park Service designated the Devil's Sinkhole a National Natural Landmark in 1972.
Nature has made the Devil's Sinkhole a fascinating timeshare of sorts, too. When the bats swoop out to get their fill during the nighttime hours, a few thousand resident cave swallows fly into the cavern to get their rest after a full day of doing their bird business. In turn, when the bats return in the morning, the birds take off to greet the daylight. It's an interesting and agreeable arrangement, and not one inch of the cavern's living space goes to waste at any time of the day.
While the bats and swallows are easily the biggest attraction for visitors to the Devil's Sinkhole, there's plenty more of natural interest and importance to see here. The freshwater lakes surrounding the cavern are home to a couple of rare species of amphipod and isopod (shrimp and pill-bug-like creatures), and a rare type of Mexican fern also clings to the walls leading down into the sinkhole itself. Plenty of bird species and regional wildlife roam the area, as well; as an officially designated state natural area, the emphasis on its 1,860 acres is the support and preservation of its ecosystem.
With that natural emphasis in mind, visitor access to the Devil's Sinkhole is restricted to guided tours only. While the natural area is maintained and overseen by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the guided tours are conducted by the Devil's Sinkhole Society , an affiliated environmental conservation organization. Their bat tours are held from May to October each year, but they also offer nature hikes and birding tours of the park all throughout the year. All tours are by reservation only, and they depart from the visitor center in Rocksprings; please see details in the full park information paragraph below.
If you're fascinated by natural phenomena, the nightly “tornado of bats,” and the breathtaking view from above into the Devil's Sinkhole below, are experiences you won't want to miss. With the beautiful Texas Hill Country as a backdrop, you'll remember the stunning sights here for years to come!
When you make the Hill Country your next vacation destination, you'll want to make Backroads Reservations your go-to source for your holiday getaway! We love showing off our stomping grounds, and we have the experience and rental properties to guarantee a fun, comfortable, and pampered stay. Whether it's just you and that special someone, or a large family group, or anything in between, we'll get you settled in that perfect guest home or cabin.
The Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area's address is 101 North Sweeten Street, Rocksprings, Texas 78880; this is the address of the visitor center, from which all tours depart. Tours will caravan from the visitor center to the park and back. Reservations are required for all tours; for these, the contact number for the Devil's Sinkhole Society is (830) 683-2287. Bat-specific tours are conducted from May to October; over the winter and early spring, the bats migrate southward to Mexico. Day tours are available year round, and nature walks and birding tours are offered January to October. The visitor center is open 10 AM to 3 PM Wednesday through Sunday year round, but is closed between Christmas and New Year's Day. Bat tour admission prices are $14.00 for adults 12 to 64; $11.00 for senior adults 65 and over; and $8.00 for children 4 to 11. Children 3 and under are admitted for free. Year-round day tours are $8.00 per person, and nature walks and birding tours are $11.00 per person.
Fill your Hill Country getaway with fun and adventure! The Devil's Sinkhole is within an hour or so of the following Hill Country towns; follow our links for more information regarding what you'll find there: