Ark Encounter: a long time wish comes true

J. H. Osborne • Oct 27, 2019 at 10:39 AM

Mom and I found Noah’s Ark. Well, actually, we visited Ark Encounter, an attraction in Kentucky that is based around a full-sized “replica” of the ark described in the Bible. I put those quote marks around “replica” to make clear the Ark Encounter folks don’t claim to know exactly what Noah’s Ark looked like. But they used the measurement ratios found in the Bible describing the ark to design and construct Ark Encounter.

“And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.” (Genesis 6:15, NKJV).

Ark Encounter opened on July 7, 2016. That date was by design, as it is Genesis 7:7 that marks Noah and his family entering the ark.

Mom had wanted to visit Ark Encounter for a long while. My work schedule and the unpredictable nature of her episodes of vertigo had made it a back-burner wish most of this summer. Friday a week ago, I told her I could be off Monday through Wednesday of last week and I thought we should go. She agreed and I made some hotel reservations. We had originally planned also to take in the Creation Museum, a sister attraction about 45 minutes north of Ark Encounter. It’s very near Cincinnati, Ohio, so I made a reservation for Monday night at a Fairfield Inn in Florence, Kentucky. I saw no point in backtracking north again on Tuesday after we’d have seen the ark, so I reserved a room at a Fairfield Inn in North Lexington. We’d be that much closer to home when we got up Wednesday, plus I wanted to show Mom a couple of places in Lexington.

When Mom got up sick early Monday, we thought we’d have to cancel our trip. But she took medication and by noon she felt up to the drive. Unfortunately, that meant we’d arrive too late to visit the Creation Museum.

According to Ark Encounter exhibits and online descriptions of the construction of its ark: A cubit is based on the measurement from the tip of the fingers to the elbow, and over time there have been different standards for defining a cubit length. For building their ark, the Ark Encounter folks assumed Noah probably used an older, long cubit and therefore they build their ark using the Hebrew long cubit: equal to 20.4 inches.

Their finished product is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. According to its website: Ark Encounter is the largest timber frame structure in the world, built from standing dead timber, in part by skilled Amish craftsmen; over 3.1 million board feet of timber was used in its construction of the ark (a board foot is 12 inches by 12 inches by 1 inch) and if laid end to end that means there’s enough timber in the ark to run from Williamstown, Kentucky, where Ark Encounter is located, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The ark’s width equals two school buses, parked end to end. It’s height is equal to three giraffes. And it’s length equals 1.5 football fields. Its interior space equals the room inside 483 semi-trailers.

And we walked it all. So I guess that could be as much as nine football fields! (back and forth on each of three levels. Plus the walk from the shuttle drop off to the ark’s entrance and then back there after lunch. Ark Encounter sits on 200 acres. The whole complex includes several other activities, such as a small zoo and a zip line tower. The parking lot is just off Interstate 75. There you board shuttle buses to ride through a valley and up the other side to the actual attraction. We did not enjoy the bus ride. That’s all I’ll say about that.

We walked through the ark’s three levels more quickly than I expected. Some spots and exhibit areas were simply so crowded that with Mom not feeling well we didn’t have the patience to wait until we could get a clearer, closer look. But we did take time to watch two 20-25 minute films at different points along the way. And we took our time more when we got to the third level which, included scenes of Noah and his family members relaxing or working in their living quarters. I was especially interested in an exhibit on how the Bible spread around the globe. There are no live animals on the ark, but it does house many well-crafted animal figures inside their onboard habitats. It included several historic Bibles in various languages. I think we made it through the three levels in about 3.5 hours. We both would have enjoyed spending more time reading more at each of the 132 exhibit “bays,” but we also were tired and I was focused on getting Mom through before her anti-vertigo medications might wear off.

The exit takes you through an expansive gift shop, and I stood in line to see our attraction photo (they take your party’s photo as you enter the ark, in front of a green screen, and then plop you down into three different scenes: front of the ark; on the ark’s ramp near the big doorway; and at ground level with one end of the ark towering behind you). I bought the cheapest package: $32 for one 6-by-8 of each shot. I was disappointed they didn’t come in a themed folder.

We exited and walked straight to the Ark Encounter’s main restaurant, Emzara’s Buffet. It’s a two-story building with community-style seating — very long rows of tables pushed together, just grab seats wherever and with whomever you can. We lucked up and snagged half of an eight-seater with a family of four that were fun and friendly.

The buffet was very much your typical large scale buffet: entrees served out of windows from the kitchen area, a huge square in the middle of the room with multiple hot veggies and cold salads, soups and chili on each corner. Separate service tables for sweets. It was value-priced, in my opinion, at $10.99 for seniors and $14.99 for adults.

One day admission prices for Ark Encounter: 4 years old and under are free; ages 5-10, $15; ages 11-17, $25; 18-59, $48; and 60 and over, $38. All prices are subject to taxes. Parking is $10 per car. There’s a discounted combo ticket if you do want to visit both the ark and the Creation Museum. And adult annual pass to the ark is $149, and I was tempted because I am one of those nerdy and/or “type A” tourists who likes to read all the little signs at each exhibit.

Mom and I went to Ark Encounter via 11-W to 25-E over the mountain, through Tazewell (Tennessee), Cumberland Gap, Kentucky, and hitting I-75 at Corbin, Kentucky. It’s a beautiful drive. It’s about 250 miles to the ark. We made the drive in about six hours, including a long stop for dinner.