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Visitors Flock to Devil's Den
for Popular Bat Event

By Jill M. Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

May 2, 2003

WEST FORK -- One of the most popular events at Devil's Den State Park highlights some of the creatures that people least like to encounter -- bats. Bat-O-Rama will take place June 13-15.

The event kicks off at 8:45 p.m. Friday, June 13, at the park amphitheater when Park Interpreter Harry Harnish, also known as Batman Harry, will present "The Truth About Bats."

The first topic of the day on Saturday is bat houses, which will begin at 10 a.m. at the visitor center's audio/visual room. Participants will first watch a video by Bat Conservation International on bat houses, and then Harnish will discuss different styles of houses and demonstrate how to build them.

At 1 p.m. in the visitor center, Harnish will show "Kids Discover Bats," a video for children ages 4 to 8. After the video, Harnish will discuss the park's expanding colony of big brown bats, their biology, roosting habits and life history.

Visitors can take time out for a softball game at 4 p.m. in Campground E before a special program at the amphitheater featuring Dr. Stephen Bennett begins at 8:45 p.m. Bennett, a professor at Clayton College near Atlanta, Georgia, specializes in bat echolocation, which was the focus of his doctorate.

"He'll bring different types of bat detectors from handheld devices to computers," Harnish said. Those attending can also view a live bat up close and hear its echolocation calls.

Bat-O-Rama weekend wraps up Sunday with two programs. At 9 a.m. Harnish will guide a crevice exploration hike through the heart of the park's unique sandstone crevice area. "It's a very special area of caves where bats hibernate," explained Harnish. "It's the biggest sandstone crevice area in the country."

Harnish said many of the crevices open for exploration lie off of the park's main trails and are therefore often overlooked. "They are twice as deep as those [crevices] on the trail," he said. "It's a chance to see this special area and explore it." The hike is moderately strenuous and begins at the visitors center.

The last program of the weekend begins at 1:30 p.m. at the visitor center. Harnish will lead a tour to the many places bats roost throughout the park.

"Bat-O-Rama is always the most attended special event in the park," said Harnish. Last year 285 people attended the Saturday evening program. Harnish added that he knows of one family that has attended the event all 13 years.

During the weekend bat-related items at the store and visitors center will sell for 10 percent less, and those that attend the event will receive a free collector's button.

For more information on Bat-O-Rama, phone the park at (479) 761-3325.

To reach Devil's Den, travel eight miles south of Fayetteville on Interstate 540 to exit 53 at West Fork, then proceed 17 miles southwest on Ark. 170; or take I-540 to exit 45 at Winslow and go seven miles west on Ark. 74. Note, trailers longer than 26 feet should use exit 53. For more information, phone (479) 761-3325 or visit

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