The bats of the San Luis Valley

VILLA GROVE, Colo. — Sometimes you don’t get to see the full beauty of a community until the sun sets and darkness creeps in. Such is the case in Villa Grove, where the town’s population boosts from a couple hundred to more than a quarter million during the summer months.

Since at least the 1960’s, hundreds of thousands of Mexican free tailed bats have called the Orient Mine just outside of Villa Grove their ‘seasonal home’.

In June, the bats begin a long journey from Central Mexico to Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

“We don’t know exactly why they segregate when they come here,” explained Steve Duker, a tour guide.

Duke brings groups of tourists up to the mine each evening. It’s a three-mile round trip hike from the Valley View Hot Springs in Villa Grove.

“I’m always astonished,” said Doug Bishop, Executive Director of Valley View. “As timeless as it is, it’s always different”.

When the sun casts its last shadow for the day, thousands of bats start to spill out of the Orient Mine. At the peak of the season, about 250,000 of the winged creatures will emerge.

“It’s a pretty dramatic view seeing them come out of here,” said Glenn Oremus, a tourist from Boulder.

For about 15-20 minutes, the bats fly anywhere from two feet to fifteen feet above the heads of the tourists who are watching them.

“It’s just that there are so many of them. You don’t normally see that,” said Carol Hurst, a tourist from Colorado Springs.

The bats stay at the mine from June to mid-September.

To learn more about the bats or to see them for yourself, visit: the Orient Land Trust website