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Going Batty: Arizona’s Mexican Free-Tailed Bats

zuni rv park arizona mexican free tailed bat

Every year, Arizona welcomes thousands of visitors—including the Caped Crusader. Okay, so maybe not Batman, per se, but between May and September each year, nearly 20,000 Mexican Free-Tail bats flock to the Copper State. They fill the evening sky with the iconic symbol of Gotham’s famous superhero. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast or just looking for a truly unique day trip from Kingman and the Zuni Village and RV Campground, go “batty” with Phoenix’s most unusual visitors.


Mexican free-tailed bats can be found throughout the state of Arizona, but unless you know where they roost, it can be a bit more challenging to view them. They tend to gravitate toward caves and abandoned, man-made structures that offer plentiful dark recesses. Arizona Game and Fish Department suspect the expansion seams within the Phoenix Tunnel provided a perfect fit for the tiny, 3.5-inch bats.

The Mexican free-tailed bat enjoys two impressive distinctions. Reaching horizontal speeds surpassing 99 miles per hour, it is regarded as the fastest animal. The Mexican free-tailed bat can also achieve the staggering altitude of 10,800 feet, making it the highest-flying bat on record.

Flying in Phoenix

While the Mexican free-tailed bat typically migrates south to the warmer climes of Central America and Mexico in the fall, each May, about ten thousand flock back to the Phoenix area to take up residence in the drainage and flood control tunnel near Camelback Road. From May to approximately September, visitors have the opportunity to witness scores of these winged mammals fly from the tunnel and out into the evening sky. 

The pageantry begins each night as the sun dips below the horizon. A lone bat ventures out to scout. Soon, he is followed by a wave of bats as the colony begins its nightly sojourn to feed. 

Mexican free-tailed bats primarily feed on insects like moths, ants, flies, and other bugs. They have been known to venture as far as twenty miles when foraging. They return to the colony with the sunrise only to repeat the process the next evening, like clockwork.

Getting There

The Phoenix bat colony is located just under three hours from Kingman and the Zuni Village and RV Campground. Simply take I-40E from Kingman toward US-93 S toward Phoenix. 

Once in Phoenix, you can usually find parking at local businesses on or near 40th street and Camelback Road. From 40th street, walk northwest to the end of the Arizona Canal Trail. Look for signs that have been posted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to guide you. The signs also offer educational information on the bats and suggest ways to keep your visit as unobtrusive as possible.

Other Places to See Mexican Free-Tailed Bats

If ten thousand bats aren’t enough to make you “batty,” you can also journey a bit further south of Kingman to the old Ruby mine. The abandoned mine shafts in the now-deserted town near Nogales host upwards of 150,000 of the Mexican Free-Tail bats. Just as in Phoenix, the bats emerge in a cloud of black and brown bodies each sundown. 

Ruby began to develop in the 1880s when George Cheney opened the Ruby Mercantile. However, it wasn’t until after the discovery of rich silver deposits in the “Montana Mine” that Ruby really began to grow. Soon, nearly 1,200 people populated the thriving town.

But bandits and water issues would soon plague the residents. By 1941, the ore was tapped out and residents abandoned the town. Much of it still stands today, however, relics of a bygone era. Visitors can purchase passes to visit the ghost town, stargaze, fish for bass in Mineral Lake, and, of course, bat watch.

So, if you’re visiting Kingman and Zuni Village and RV Campground and want an activity that’s out of the ordinary, visit a colony of Mexican Free-Tail bats and watch as they take to the night skies. You’ll go “batty” for it!

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