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Monday, March 12, 2018

Southern California Vol. 14 - The Santiago Canyon Road Bat Bridge

So this one is short and sweet.  About a month ago, I wrote a post about Black Star Canyon and the creepy trail and ghost stories associated with it.  It's a strange place for sure, especially since it feels miles away from civilization, yet sits smack in the middle of Orange County.

Let's say that you don't want to dodge squatters wielding shotguns or hurling rocks at you.  Let's say that you don't even want to entertain the thought of ghostly crying voices while you're on a hike.  Let's just say you want to drive somewhere, park your car and see something cool without even having to get out.

Well, I’ve got just the thing for you.  It’s actually a bridge (to nowhere in particular) that crosses the road near Irvine Lake.  It was built to help with traffic temporarily while construction went on nearby.  Once the work was completed, it was about to be demolished when people noticed that it had become a haven for a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. 

Instead of destroying it, Orange County supervisor Bill Campbell was able to get the bridge labeled as a permanent bat roost.  Between 1,000 and 2,000 bats make their home under the bridge during the summer months as they make their migration south.  They wedge themselves up in the seams you can see in the picture below.

As you can tell from my pictures, I was there off-season.  However you can tell you're in the right place by looking for the stain on the road under the overpass.  If the bats are there, that stain will be much fresher and you need to make sure you're watching how long you linger beneath them.

The bridge itself is now part of the trail system so there's an opportunity there to be on top of the bridge and watch as bats fly out on their nightly hunt.  It's not as spectacular as the bat bridges you've probably seen on TV in places like Austin, Texas, but it's still pretty cool and this colony of bats does the local farmers a lot of good.  Local scientists estimate that the colony eats about thirty pounds of insects per night.  Those are not bad numbers at all! 

You can check it out for yourself pretty easily as the bridge is the only one on Santiago Canyon Road between Irvine Lake and Cook's Corner.  It's actually only a couple of miles from the turnoff to Black Star Canyon Rd. as you're heading in the direction of Irvine Lake. 

So this summer, why not head out there and give the bats some love?  


Lisanne Harrington said...

This reminded me of the time when my youngest was at softball practice at dusk and the whole team was chased by a horde of fruit bats!

This bridge is fairly close to me, but I've never heard of it. Where do you find these things?? I'll have to check it out.

Cary Christopher said...

It's nothing special and there's very little room to pull off the road. Hit it at the right time of year though and you'll see them taking off. I've been told that if you go anytime after mid-May you're guaranteed to see them.

Willy P said...

It is too far to drive dammit! We used to lived 5 minutes away from this. I guess I will have to make due with our resident bats - we have some living in our siding, and the same ones have probably been there for decades. At dusk they will be seen circling the house at different levels, and fly up and down the street like drunken sailors. Ours are not the fancy Mexican bats, merely common brown bats. Fortunately they have not gotten inside the house, but they have several times into our neighbors place!

Cary Christopher said...

You know, the first time I drove out to see this bridge I remembered that you used to live in those places across from the Ralph's shopping center. I wondered if you'd ever heard of it. I first heard about it from some mountain biking friends of mine who know I like weird stuff. I'm hoping to get out there this summer and get on top of the bridge before they start flying out.

Willy P said...

It is further than I thought, about 10 miles from where we lived. Blue Diamond Haul Road. If you go on google maps street view and position yourself under the bridge, looking up you can see their little feet dangling!

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