For me, enjoying the outdoors gets a bit easier after August. Even being born and raised in Missouri, I still get zapped from the 200% humidity we often have in July and August. This year, I’m looking forward to exploring more of Hannibal’s newest park on my (as yet unpurchased) new bike in September and October.
Sodalis Nature Preserve, which opened to the public in April, is now Hannibal’s second-largest park. With paved walking and biking trails and unpaved hiking trails, the 185-acre park is a fantastic new addition to Hannibal’s many outdoor recreation opportunities. But ‘new’ is not what makes Sodalis special; it’s the park’s namesake and their dwellings that give this place its only-to-be-found here appeal.
Sodalis is not named for a ‘who’, but for a ‘what.’ The name comes from Myotis Sodalis – the scientific name for the Indiana bat. Sodalis Nature Preserve is home to one-third of all known Indiana bats on the planet. These bats have been on the endangered species list since the 1970s, and with the creation of Sodalis, their Hannibal habitat is now protected. That’s right; Hannibal has its very own Batcaves! <image of bat – Steve Orr 245 shot>
Before you freak out, read on.
You can fully enjoy Sodalis without ever experiencing a bat if you so choose. Bats are nocturnal, so enjoying the park by day pretty much guarantees you will not be seeing the park’s namesake. What you will see – and feel – are the amazing cave network and limestone mine shafts that the bats call home.
While entrances to these caves are barred to human entry to preserve the bat’s habitat, there is something seriously wild about walking or biking the paved paths and feeling the caves before you ever see them. The cold air blasting from the cave entrances cool the area around them by at least 10 degrees. These natural caves and man-made mine shafts add an experience to your journey that will not be soon forgotten.
But What if I Want to See Bats?
If you want to see these bats from spring through fall, simply hang out around the cave entrances around dusk. Specially designed shoots at the top of the entrances allow bats to exit and enter the caves while protecting the habitat from humans.
You’ll start to see bats leaving for the night, ready to feast on mosquitoes and other pesky insects. If you are a big bat enthusiast, or simply interested in the role bats play in our ecosystem, I might recommend coming to Sodalis in October. This is when the bats ‘swarm’ as part of their mating ritual before hibernation in November. Bat sightings will be at a maximum.
Hannibal is even having a Bat Festival Oct. 22. Experts will bring sonar devices, lead guided walks and present sessions about these fascinating creatures. Enjoy children’s activities and much more. Information can be found at the Hannibal Park & Recreation Events Page.
Channel your Inner Tom Sawyer
We hope you will take the time to explore this natural wonder now available in Hannibal. While Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer cave tales may have put Hannibal caves on the map, this new opportunity is your chance to channel your inner “Tom Sawyer” and discover your own adventures during your outdoor exploration of Hannibal’s very unique new park.
Written by Megan Rapp from the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau.