Noah's Ark.
1:48 scale cutaway model inside the Ark showcases its intelligent design.

Noah's Ark

Field review by the editors.

Williamstown, Kentucky

We've visited other Creationist attractions -- each has its own unique charm -- but none match the scale and sophistication of Kentucky's Ark Encounter. Regardless of your religious beliefs (and in spite of a biblically proportioned admission and parking fee) the Ark is an attraction that should be visited -- if only because it's unlikely that you'll ever visit anything else like it.

Propped-up Ark with two-by-two animal entry ramp, ready for the Flood.
Propped-up Ark with two-by-two animal entry ramp, ready for the Flood.

Built at a reported cost of $91 million, opened to the public in July 2016, the Ark is the brainchild of Answers in Genesis, the same group that opened the Creation Museum in 2007. Billed as "The Largest Timber-Frame Structure in the World" and "a modern engineering marvel," the Ark contains 3.3 million board-feet of lumber and weighs more than two thousand tons. Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham claims that it was built to scriptural specs, 510 feet long and as tall as a seven-story building -- an exact replica of Noah's enormous wooden boat.

Priest delivers a human baby into the belly furnace of a snake god.
Priest delivers a human baby into the belly furnace of a snake god.

The purpose of the Ark, according to Ham, is to fuel the faith of his fellow Bible literalists and to reach people who would otherwise avoid a Creationist attraction. Co-founder Mike Zovath has stressed the Ark's broad appeal, saying that he hopes it becomes a bucket-list roadside wonder, "like seeing the biggest ball of twine."

In the arena, a victim is about to become dinosaur chow.
In the arena, a victim is about to become dinosaur chow.

The Ark itself is dimly lit, a windowless wooden labyrinth whose brown interior is enlivened with over 100 bays of colorful, professionally-designed exhibits. As you walk up a ramp into the Ark's belly you're greeted by the recorded sounds of a thunderstorm and caged animals. There are no live animals on this Ark, only lifelike replicas, including a surprising number of juvenile dinosaurs. These creatures are a big part of the appeal of Ark Encounter, especially for children. The attraction could have simplified its narrative by wiping out the dinosaurs in the Flood, but then it wouldn't have had any dinosaurs for visitors to see. Answers in Genesis speculates that the dinosaurs' later extinction -- after all the trouble taken to save them -- was not a miscalculation by God, but because Noah's descendants ate them.

Ark Encounter features a number of exhibits showcasing the wickedness that made God decide to drown everyone on the planet (The "Help Me Understand" display explains that God created humankind, so He's within His rights to kill everybody whenever He wants to). These detailed glimpses of the sinful pre-Flood world are the most memorable part of the attraction. One miniature diorama shows people about to be murdered in an arena by a human giant and a toothy dinosaur with gilded horns. Another elaborate tableau depicts babies being delivered into the belly furnace of a golden snake god.

Two caseid-family dinos in their cage. The Ark claims to have saved dozens of now-extinct creatures.
Two caseid-family dinos in their cage. The Ark claims to have saved dozens of now-extinct creatures.

Poster-size illustrations with titles such as "Abuse of Creation" and "Descent into Darkness" show poor, defenseless dinosaurs being senselessly slaughtered by depraved humans, and crowds of smug, shirtless revelers with tattoos and tambourines -- time-honored visual shorthand for every parent's nightmare of party debauchery.

If you're wondering how you missed the part in the Bible that chronicled the age of dinosaurs as gladiators... you didn't. A sign explains that Ark Encounter had to invent these details because the Bible doesn't mention any of them. Nevertheless, visitors are assured, the pre-Flood world "was thoroughly infested with violence, idolatry, and every imaginable form of immorality."

Evil pre-Flood humans burn trees, murder nice dinosaurs.
Evil pre-Flood humans burn trees, murder nice dinosaurs.

On the main deck, a robot Noah answers 14 questions via a touchscreen monitor, such as "How long have you been married?" and "Why don't you look like you are 600 years old?" According to Answers in Genesis, Noah and his family labored between 50 and 75 years to build the Ark, a leisurely pace made possible because pre-Flood humans could live as long as a thousand years. God chopped everyone's lifespan by 90 percent in the post-Flood world -- and if that sounds cruel, just imagine how awful the world would be if celebrities and politicians could live a thousand years.

Many displays in the Ark, with titles such as "sensible division of labor" and "time-saving mechanical processes," strive to convince visitors that this immense floating zoo could have been built and staffed by Noah's family of eight people. Facts and figures are everywhere. One exhibit states that, according to "current estimates from Ark Encounter researchers," the Ark housed 1,398 cages and exactly 6,744 animals. It is a very nuts-and-bolts American Ark, with Noah and his clan in the mold of self-sufficient Pilgrims and innovative pioneers. The implied message is that surviving a global holocaust needed no miracle, just engineering chops and elbow grease, and that everyone else could have survived, too -- if they hadn't been so busy dancing, fornicating, and sacrificing their babies to a snake god.

Don't be fooled!
Don't be fooled!

Gift shop knit beanie and beard for aspiring Noahs.
Gift shop knit beanie and beard for aspiring Noahs.

The Ark Encounter's engineer, Tim Lovett, has compared those who wait for miracles to people on Welfare.

The "Sink or Swim" exhibit shows that Noah's handiwork deserved to outlast God's wrath. It asks, "Which Ark would survive the global flood?" then flashes "No Survivors!" as the Deluge swamps the boats of every other religion, to the honks of penalty buzzers and the screams of drowning victims.

The Gilgamesh Cube? "Tilting and rocking in waves would make voyage virtually unbearable."

The Wunambal Raft? "People, animals, and supplies would be washed overboard."

Noah's Ark? "Perfectly designed to survive the Flood. Dimensions are an ideal blend for strength, stability, and comfort."

An attraction so invested in its own feasibility can tolerate no perceived insults. This is stressed in the "Fairy Tale Ark" exhibit, which attacks children's books (most of them Christian) for practicing the "7 D's of Deception," including "Discrediting the Truth" and "Deceptively Cute." Ark Encounter makes clear that there's nothing cuddly about the Earth's greatest premeditated mass slaughter -- although there is one bright spot. Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham has said that his Ark, despite appearances, is not built to float, because God promised He would never flood the Earth again.

Also see: Noah's Ark in Maryland | Noah's Ark in Canada

Noah's Ark

Ark Encounter

Address:
1 Ark Encounter Drive, Williamstown, KY
Directions:
Ark Encounter. I-75 exit 154. Drive west on Hwy 36. You'll quickly see the entrance on the left.
Hours:
M-Sa 9-7, Su 12-7 (Call to verify)
Phone:
855-284-3275
Admission:
Adults $40 + $10 parking.
RA Rates:
The Best
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Metal TepeeMetal Tepee, Williamstown, KY - 2 mi.
PunkyvillePunkyville, Falmouth, KY - 14 mi.
Tiny Church - Monte Casino ChapelTiny Church - Monte Casino Chapel, Crestview Hills, KY - 27 mi.
In the region:
Martha - Passenger Pigeon Memorial Hut, Cincinnati, OH - 36 mi.

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January 21, 2018

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