Noah’s Ark Makes Its Mark in Kentucky

To share biblical beliefs, Christian group builds a structure of biblical proportions

Now there’s a place for people interested in learning more about Noah’s Ark and the teachings of the Bible associated with it. This ark won’t be sailing anywhere, however.

A structure built to match the exact specifications as described in the Bible — 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high — has just opened in Williamstown, Kentucky — and expectations for its success as a religious destination and object of curiosity among even non-Christians are very high indeed.

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There is nothing like it in this country — or in the world, its creators say.

“There’s only been two other attempts at building anything akin to Noah’s Ark,” Ken Ham, president and CEO of The Ark Encounter, the group behind the structure, told LifeZette in an interview. “One is in Hong Kong — and it’s not a wooden building at all. It’s really just a façade, and in my mind it’s not really worth considering when discussing anything that closely resembles the actual ark. The other one that’s fairly impressive is in the Netherlands, but it’s built on barges. It’s a timber structure built on metal barges, very unlike ours.”

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Ham said he and his group felt it was vital to help share Christian messages today, and to provide a place for families to discuss their faith and get closer to what actually happened so many years ago. The Ark Encounter is owned and operated by Answers in Genesis, a fundamentalist Christian organization based in Kentucky.

“Museums like the Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian, or Chicago Field Museum — mostly they teach that we supposedly evolved [from] apelike creatures,” he told “Good Morning America” not long ago. “Why shouldn’t we be able to use the same technology and really challenge people to consider the Bible as the true history of the world?”

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LifeZette spoke exclusively to Ham about this and other issues just as the $100 million project was opening on July 7 to an excited public — some of whom are already calling it “a blessing.”

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Question: Why did you create this unusual project?

Answer: We’re a Christian organization that is all about Christian morality and the Bible. We look for ways to share Christian messages, particularly as we see that secularists are more and more trying to remove any reminders of Christianity from the culture today — taking the Bible out of public schools, for example.

We asked ourselves: How can we really impact the culture? For starters, we know that Noah’s Ark is known around the world, and we were fascinated by how we might help tell its story. In 2008 we had a research study done — a general population study — to ask the question, If we built a theme park, would people come to it? The results indicated that perhaps a million or more people, maybe even closer to two million, might come each year to see such a structure. Once we understood there could be real interest, we got to work.

Question: And you repeated the study a second time. Why is that?

“There are tens of thousands of items that we had our designers make just for this ark. Everything is hand-made,” said Ken Ham.

Answer: We did another study in 2015, from a slightly different perspective, to hone in on why people would visit such an attraction, and we received predictions of 1.4 million to 2.4 million visitors a year — and now we actually believe there will be more people than that interested in it. I don’t know of any other Christian facility that could reach that many people with a conservative Christian message.

The research also indicates that quite a lot of people who are not Christian would also visit because they’re fascinated by the ark. It’s an awe-inspiring structure, really, and others have said this as well, not just those of us who have been working on it. It’s got three decks — and each deck is an attraction in itself.

Q: No detail has been overlooked, it seems. How much time, roughly, will it take a family to experience all three decks of the ark?

A: You would probably need a minimum of a full day. The ark itself — just to see it — is something else. It’s one-and-a-half times the length of a football field. You’re walking up and down both sides and looking at exhibits — and going into the exhibits. You can read material and watch videos. There are tens of thousands of items that we had our designers make just for this ark. Everything is hand-made. Deck one is where Noah rode in the ark. Deck two contains themed exhibits. And deck three has teaching exhibits. We also have a small zoo, with a number of animals such as kangaroos, zebras, ostrichs, armadillos, camels, and donkeys.

Q: You have a cafe for families as well.

A: Yes, a 1500-square foot cafe, filled with a world-class display of animals from around the world. We also have a zip-line course, with nine miles of zip-line across a valley. There’s also a mile-long shuttle bus ride to get to the ark — the shuttle ride itself to get here is a treat.

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Q: What about hotels? I assume you’ve tried to pick a location that’s convenient for people — you’re halfway between Lexington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

A: There are lots of hotels within 20 to 30 minutes of where we are in central Kentucky, and new ones may be developed as a result of this attraction.

Q: Tell us about the vows of faith that those working on this project have taken.

A: If you’re talking about our staff, we’re a Christian organization. People who work at the ark have to sign a statement of faith that they’re Christian and have a Christian belief in the Bible. The Ark Encounter people are different — they are part of Answers of Genesis, and as Christians need to make a more specific statement about faith and creationism. But that’s for the staff members. We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of contractors working on the ark, and there’s no stipulation for them in regard to that at all.

Q: What other key messages would you like to share about this project?

A:  We feel that in many ways today, the secularists are trying to close down discussions about the Bible, and we’re doing something better than that. Parents today know that if they take their children to this ark, they don’t have to worry about what they’ll see, about what they’ll hear. Our goal is a wonderful, family-friendly adventure — and we have male and female restrooms, too.

We’ve had people come here [before the official opening] and say things like, “I just want to come back.” It’s a massive ship in the rolling hills of Kentucky — they’ve never seen anything like it. We want families and kids to be inspired by something that shares conservative, Christian values, and to open up a discussion about the Bible, morality and Christianity.

Q: You picked July 7 as your opening date for a very special reason.

A: In Genesis 7, the Bible explains that God told Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of animal … and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth… ”

So, yes, that is why we chose July 7 as the opening date.

meet the author

Maureen Mackey served as editor-in-chief and managing editor of LifeZette for nearly five years. Before that, she held senior editorial positions at major publications, helping The Fiscal Times win a MIN Award for Best New Site as managing editor and Reader's Digest win an American Society of Magazine Editors Award for General Excellence as book editor. Her work has appeared in Real Clear Politics, CNBC, A Fine Line, AARP Magazine, Yahoo Finance, MSN, Business Insider, and The Week, among other outlets. She is a member of the Newswomen's Club of New York and the American Legion Auxiliary.

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