Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sodalis Nature Preserve, 8/17/2016

We learned about this 185-acre park that has been created to protect the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis Sodalis) at the Visitor Center in Hannibal, MO. The Sodalis Nature Preserve is home to an estimated 168,000 bats that live in a cave complex and former limestone mine (closed about 50 years ago). There are specially-constructed gates at each one of the 34 mine entrances that allows the bats to easily fly in and out of the caves but keeps people out. The area is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The trailhead is located at the parking lot at 819 Ely Street (Hannibal). There is a two-mile paved trail that runs parallel to Bear Creek and then forms a loop, providing great views of many of the entrances to the old limestone mine. We saw several groups of people walking and bicycling on the trail while we were there. 

As we walked along the trail, suddenly we felt a blast of cool air in several places. We soon realized that there were openings in the rock where the cool air came from the caves. It's great in the hot, humid summer climate here!

We soon came to many large openings of the old limestone mind equipped with the large grates.

The bats can be seen at dusk when they emerge from the caves to feast on insects. The best viewing site is at the area called the "amphitheater" where there is a large paved area and several large openings. There is also a small bat house here.

We stayed until after sunset and saw many bats flitting around (I was hoping for swarms but they didn't behave that way!) We saw the most coming out of this opening over the water of Bear Creek where they sometimes skim the surface catching insects. 

As we walked back along the trail to the parking lot, we saw more swooping in close to our heads! Unfortunately, I did not catch a single one in my photos!

Nonetheless, this was a really interesting hike. And, of course, it is dog-friendly so our doggy, Sadie, had fun sniffing around the wooded areas. 

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