Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge
Located next to a major thoroughfare in Scottsboro, Alabama, the federally protected Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge hosts a large colony of gray bats. During the summer months at dusk, you can watch a dark cloud of bats pouring out of the cave to collect their nightly fill of insects.
The mouth of the cave is quite beautiful, especially when draped in greenery during the summer months and also after a good rain when water is flowing steadily from the mouth of the cave. You can also observe a multitude of fireflies lighting up the night while you wait for the bats.
Plan your trip:
Anytime at dusk between June and August is great for bat viewing. If you can go during a full moon with no cloud obstruction you will get a much better view of the bats. Conversely, cloudy nights with low light can make this a lack luster experience.
Pro Tip: The Strawberry Moon will light the night sky officially on June 17, 2019 but it will appear full on the 16th and 18th as well. In addition to bats and full moons, Jupiter will be visible in the sky on June 17th as well!
Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be a full moon, but the more light, the better. Other full moons for summer 2019 are: July 16th and August 15. Check future full moon dates here.
Where? Scottsboro, Alabama. It is literally on the side of Hwy 72 between mile markers 130 and 131. Parking Coordinates are: 34.6185045 -86.1314369 A short walk down a shaded, closed road leads the way to a wooden boardwalk for viewing. When you feel the cold air through the trees, you know your close!
How long is the walk to the cave? It’s about a 125 yard flat stroll on a paved path. The boardwalk used for viewing is universally accessible.
What else is there to do? Most people visit the refuge to watch more than 200,000 bats pour out of the entrance for their nightly feeding, however there are hiking trails as well. These trails (well-worn paths) can be hard to find during the summer months as they can get a little overgrown. It would even be a great winter spot to explore.
Any other attractions close by? Since it’s located next to a major highway-everything! You could spend days exploring Jackson County. In Scottsboro, you can dig through people’s unclaimed luggage at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, then pop over to Payne’s Sandwich Shop and Soda Fountain and enjoy a reuben or a Red Slaw Dog before heading over to the refuge to check out the night flight, at dusk. Check out our other blogs for details and directions to other cool places!
What do I need to bring?
I’ve always brought an umbrella to protect myself from bat guano however, this is optional. Many people don’t bring anything and they are fine.
A MUST bring item is bug repellant.
A flashlight so that you don’t step on anything getting back to your vehicle. A cell phone light is fine.
History: Although this cave is closed to the public, Sauta Cave (Originally Blowing Wind Cave) has seen thousands of years of human activity. Native American drawings on the cave walls are the earliest known signs of human presence. Beginning in 1819 this cave was mined for saltpeter which was used to make gunpowder. One hundred years later, the mouth of the cave became residence to a bait shop and night club. There was a dance floor positioned next to the cave entrance allowing patrons to take advantage of nature’s air conditioning. In 1956 this cave was mapped in its entirety by the Huntsville Grotto and found to have over 2 miles of passages. A lesser known fact about Sauta Cave is that in 1962, it was prepared as a fallout shelter and command unit by members of the local National Guard Unit, Company B 151st Engineer Bn. Finally, in 1978 the Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge was established and includes 264 acres of hardwoods.
Don’t worry about the bats getting too close to you; they won’t. They are flying out of the cave and straight up through the trees, not towards the platform.
There is a locked gate off of Lee Hwy. You must park at the gate and walk around.
There is also an upper entrance to the cave that is also a gated, closed entrance, but it isn’t paved and there are snakes and ticks to consider.