Noahs Ark is one of the most challenged stories in the book of Genesis. There are many questions about its historical accuracy. I do not blame the skepticism. I too struggle with all the details of this story which the Bible has few of. How does this story have any truth to it? Well to my surprise, I discovered a website under the name Ark Encounter. This website showed me a life-sized ark built in the state of Kentucky. This was all done according to the specifications in the Bible. At an over $102 million price tag, The Ark Encounter opened on July 5, 2016. This immediately landed on my places to see list. It was not until April 2, 2019 that I was able to visit it.
So why the almost three year delay? This was for two reasons. The first reason was I had other trips planned in advance. One of those trips was in 2018 to see the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. The second reason was I wanted to wait for all the excitement and popularity to subside. This was so I could have a more relaxed enjoyable experience. This will not be a full comprehensive review. But I will show what I experienced during my time. My hope is to provide as much helpful information as I can from my time here.
General admission is $48, but I decided to get the Ark/Creation Combo Pass. This gave me admission to both the Ark Encounter as well as their sister attraction, the Creation Museum. After taxes this came to be a total of $80 American which converted to $100 Canadian at the time. For myself, I found the combo pass to be worthwhile. Not only did the combined price save me a few dollars, but I did in fact plan to see the Creation Museum as well.
The Ark Encounter is in Williamstown, Kentucky. This is thirty-six miles from the Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky airport. As far as I know, there was no shuttle service of any kind. Also taking a cab would have been very pricey at around $100 each way. I actually found it cheaper to rent a car instead, which is what I did. Another advantage to the Ark/Creation Combo Pass was the included park passes for both venues. At $10 for each parking pass, this saved me another $20 and was further incentive to rent a car over taking a cab.
The parking lot is massive. I cannot imagine anyone not being able to get a spot. I am sure this would help accommodate visitors during the busy summer months. The entrance has ticket outlets for purchase. When redeeming my ticket, I noticed there was no security checks. This was a pleasant surprise. There was no metal detectors to go through. This was kind of refreshing being able to enter without any restrictions. It also sped the process of getting people through the line-ups. Upon entrance, I received a wristband along with an informational brochure. This brochure gives a map of all the areas to see not only inside the ark but outside as well. I then boarded their public transit bus. There appears to be a small fleet of these buses to accommodate high volumes of visitors. The bus ride is about five minutes as it takes guests to the Answers Center. This is an open spacious area consisting of hundreds of books, DVDs, games, and all types of learning resources. Most of these products come from the ministry, Answers in Genesis. So what is Answers in Genesis? Well it is an apologetics ministry. It helps enable Christians to defend their faith and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. The name speaks for itself. It provides answers to questions surrounding the book of Genesis. This ministry began in 1994 by Ken Ham. He established Answers in Genesis to equip Christians with a variety of tools so they can know the Bible. Some of these tools are a Bible curriculum, The Creation Museum, books Ham authored, and of course the life sized ark. From the Answers Center is a five minute walk to reach the Ark Encounter.
Whether you believe in Genesis or not, one thing is for certain. This ark is an extraordinary masterpiece of architecture. This is the exact size it was built by Noah and his family. At 510 feet long, it is near one and a half football fields. At 51 feet high, it is taller than a modern four-story house. This incredible size has 3.3 million board feet of timber. As a result, it has become the biggest timber-frame structure in the world. The only thing that seems out of place with this ark is this surveillance camera sticking out of it. While small in relation to the arks sheer size, it is still an eyesore once noticed. I thought this large wooden ramp was for how the guests enter, but that is not the case. It is only a display to show how the animals entered. The guests actually enter through the back side going up a zig-zag ramp.
What is a large wooden boat on the outside becomes a large wooden museum on the inside. There is power for lights, running water for restrooms, and even an elevator to accommodate guests. With its ramps and electric scooters for rent, the Ark Encounter wanted to be accessible for everyone to see.
The backside of the brochure helps explain what to expect inside the Ark. It consists of three decks along with a ground level. Each deck has a central theme consisting of various exhibits. Deck 1 has the title, "The Flood Begins". This gives guests a feeling of what it was like inside the ark by experiencing a variety of animal exhibits. Deck 2 has the title, "Technology of the Ark". This tours the pre-flood world along with how it was possible to maintain the ark and care for the animals. Deck 3 has the title, "After the Flood". This shows guests the impact the flood had on the world. Since there is a chronological order, I will start with Deck 1 and work my way up.
As I enter Deck 1, they right away mention the artistic licenses they use. From what the ark and the animals looked like, to hair and clothing styles. They also use artistic license when it comes to the mechanisms for animal feeding and waste removal. Even when it comes to who was Noahs wife along with his childrens wives. They are all given names when the Bible does not mention their names. They try to limit these licenses by using their research of ancient history. These are not attempts to add to scripture, but rather to enhance the guest experience. For everything else, they use a literal interpretation of what the Bible says as their authority and guide. So when the Bible does not give details about certain aspects of the ark, they will be the first to say they dont know. That does not stop them from providing their best estimate or theory. But in the end, it is up to guests to decide where the evidence leads.
From there, guests hear sounds of creatures and the ambiance of what being in the ark may feel like. These wooden crates would be the living space for many of the smaller creatures. From time to time, there are displays of Noah and his family. With this display there is some mechanical movements. This depicts Noah praying with his family to God shortly after the flood has started.
Further along, there are bags that represent the food supply such as seeds, nuts, or dried fruits and vegetables. The tall thin clay pots could have stored a variety of grains. The wax seals would prevent spoilage and keep other animals from getting into the food. The short wide clay pots stored liquids such as plant-based oils. They could have also possibly stored a backup supply of drinking water. Even olive oil as a fuel source for the lamps. Some of the smaller reptiles and amphibians may have been inside these pots with some water to provide a moist environment. Some of the wooden cribs may have housed moths. These are all examples of the sort of creative licenses taken where the Bible is not specific on how the ark functioned within. This is where their research allows them to provide the most reasonable and plausible theory on what could have happened.
There are several enclosures of various species, some which I was aware of, but many that I was not. This is also to suggest certain dinosaurs were a species that existed at some point. The extinct species shown here are not accurate with how they look. These are more visual interpretations based on fossil skeletal systems. What I liked was the placards that explain the more common skeptical questions such as, Seven pairs or seven of each kind? How were clean and unclean animals differentiated? How did Noah keep polar bears cool? Were the largest animals on the ark?Have 99% of animals gone extinct? How did freshwater fish survive?
On the other side of Deck 1 there was some well designed factual placards. These placards show how long it took to build the ark, cubit measurements, its lumber, its shape, and so on. They even show the differences between this ark and Noahs. They use visual infographics to help communicate some of their research and estimates. There is also this miniature model of the ark. This is what it may have looked like inside. This rendering accounts for its needs. Needs such as division of labor, time-saving mechanical processes, ventilation and waste removal, and placement of food and water.
As I make my way to Deck 2, it is worth noting that there are no stairs whatsoever in this ark. To access each deck, there are long winding ramps. Noahs ark likely had stairs, but for this ark it is to allow accessibility for its guests.
At the beginning of Deck 2, guests walk through an array of paintings and illustrations. These depict how God created the world and how perfect it was. Sin entered this perfect world and soon became a godless world. Along with these paintings are miniature displays of high detailed figurines. These displays give an idea of how wicked humanity became in the pre-flood world. From murder to idolatry, the pre-flood world became exceedingly violent and wicked. This of course led to Gods judgment of destroying all living creation with a worldwide flood. I must say, these were beautiful pieces of artwork that made it less about reading and more about viewing.
From there, are yet again more enclosures of different types of common and not so common species. I could see the enjoyment from kids looking at these models. Aside from how real they looked and the placards, I was not too impressed from a educational standpoint. This is because I do not question that the ark could house all these animals. The education I am more trying to seek is how living on an ark is possible? How did Noahs family feed all the animals? How did they provide fresh air and water? How did they light the ark?
Beyond the enclosures, guests approach a small theatre of a short movie called The Noah Interview. It depicts Noah having a sit down interview with a cynical journalist. Noah tries to address the journalists difficult questions on the feasibility of an ark. There are few exhibits where guests can sit down, so this is a great opportunity to rest the legs for a bit.
There are some exhibits like this, Kids Spooky Animal Encounters for children to enjoy. It is like a small walkthrough haunted house where kids discover hidden spooky creatures. I like that there are some exhibits for kids to enjoy. But this particular one I was unsure what the purpose of spooking kids served. In fairness, I can see that this wanted to give kids the illusion of how living in a dark wooden boat full of creatures would be creepy. Whatever its purpose, lots of kids enjoyed walking through this one.
Further along are more of the educational exhibits I was looking for. One exhibit addresses how Noahs family cared for small animals, large animals, reptiles, and amphibians. Other questions such as How they fed creatures with specialized diets? How did they remove their waste? How could they tend to sick and injured animals? It also addresses questions about the ark such as How did they get fresh water?, How was the ark ventilated with proper air circulation?, How was light provided within the ark? While there are no definitive answers, they show the possible methods and systems for each question. They offer some cool interactive displays that show each possible method.
A few other exhibits examine Noahs life in more detail. One exhibit tries to figure out Noahs personal life. Could Noah read and write? What personal items did he bring on the ark? Did he study animals before the flood? What was his perception of the pre-flood world? The construction of the ark shows his clear excellent skill in woodworking. This would be helpful to maintain and fix anything broken within the ark. As for working with metal, while it is uncertain if Noah knew this skill, people were capable of metal working before the flood. So it is very likely he gained this ability during his long life. This would have been a crucial skill to help with the construction of the ark.
Another exhibit walks guests through a closer look at Noahs family and how they could have built the ark. There is artistic license used for this explanation. But there are clues from scripture that provide a plausible backstory. This exhibit suggests how the Lord may have prepared Noah and his family to fulfill this monumental task.
There is another exhibit called Fairy Tale Ark. This carries a large collection of childrens storybooks and models of Noahs ark. To my surprise there is even a video game created for the Nintendo DS inside this display. The collection as a whole is quite impressive. Each side of the walls have a three dimensional quote. One is from Satan which is not found in scripture. The other is found in Genesis 7:23.
One area shows the most common questions that skeptics usually ask. Why is death the punishment for sin? Is God cruel? Was it just for God to judge the whole world? Why does God allow so much death and suffering?. Difficult questions rarely have easy answers. The answers provided may not sit well with some. But they make sense if God allows free will and the consequences that come with it. Especially for a greater good beyond reasons we do not know.
Remember the big large door on the outside of the ark that shows how the animals would have entered? Well Deck 2 is where people can see it. This was a popular spot for people to take pictures in front of. There is a unique parallel to this door. It is the door of salvation that Jesus claims to be in John 10:9. To be saved from death and destruction, people had to enter the ark by going through its door. Despite many decades of time and warnings, many chose not to enter the ark. Only eight people chose to enter through its door and were saved. Today God offers the world the same chance to be saved through another door. This time the door is Jesus Christ.
There are lots of artificial animals in the Ark Encounter, but are there any real ones? Well there is, but only two of them in this small petting area. There are other animals for children to pet, but they are outside of the ark which I will speak about later. Before we explore Deck 3, it is worth noting that there are small concession areas. There is one on every deck that sell snacks and drinks. Most museums restrict people in an area to eat and drink. But here there was no restricted areas. This was great. I loved that I could buy a coffee and be able to walk around everywhere with it.
One of the biggest and most decorated exhibits was the Living Quartersfor Noah and his family. This is also the exhibit with one of the most artistic licenses taken. This is because the Bible does not say anything about what living on the ark was like. There are no names given of the women on the ark either. But of course we have to think that there had to be living quarters for each married couple to live in. Living on a large boat filled with animals to take care was no easy task. It would make sense for everyone to have their space and personal time away from all the chaos. But there are no details on what these spaces looked like. We do not even know the personalities of each couple. As a result, I find this exhibit takes a large leap of artistic license. They again are up front in telling guests that they took educated guesses. They took great care not to contradict biblical details. Whenever information is directly from scripture, they provide the reference from the Bible. Information of their own will not have those scripture references. I would not say theses visual interpretations are far fetched. This helped me understand how it was possible to grow, prepare, and cook food for meals. Their rooms look very comfortable which may seem exaggerated. But I also think they would have wanted comfort. Considering they worked hard every day, it is understandable to want a comfortable area to rest. Also, they had no idea how long they would be on this ark. What if it took me several decades to build a place to live and work in with thousands of creatures? I would want my own living space to be as comfortable as possible. But since we do not know how they lived, guests have to draw their own conclusions.
Onwards, guests discover the impact the flood had on the world through an exhibit called Ice Age. Archeologists and geologists will appreciate the information offered here. This exhibit tries to answer questions such as, How would the global flood trigger the ice age?, How long did it last?, Where was the ice?, Was there only one ice age or many?, Is climate change natural?, How could animals reach distant places?. There was many infographics and placards. This was not my area of expertise, so it was hard for me to grasp whether this information was credible or not. What I do know is a lot of effort went into building a case for how the Ice Age happened.
Further on is another exhibit of what happened outside of the ark during the flood. There was once again many placards and even video displays. They show how the flood happened and what it did to the earth. They build a case on how the flood is not only possible, but that the earth is thousands of years old. Not millions. I do not know where I stand when it comes to the age of the earth. Scientists from both worldviews bring strong theories. But what I find interesting is that both evolutionists and creationists study the same evidence. They look at the same rocks and fossils but both reach different conclusions. It seems these two different conclusions have a strong influence by their worldviews. People need to ask themselves which worldview makes better sense of the evidence?
There are exhibits that go beyond the ark and speak about human existence. There is Babel which speaks on Gods commandment to multiply and fill the earth. They multiplied, but they did not fill the earth. They instead rebelled by building a tower that would reach the heavens. Since the people refused to scatter and fill the earth, God confused their language. People were no longer able to communicate and abandoned the tower of Babel. This was the beginning of the different languages and biological races we see today. There is a table of nations that show the people groups that descended from Noahs three sons.
There is Ancient Manwhich shows that the intelligence of man does not come from time or technology. People may challenge how Noah was able to build a large sophisticated ark so long ago. But that civilization already knew metalworking, woodworking, and using stone. Even if there is a lack of technology, it does not take away their intelligence or ingenuity. We can see that people built the Great Pyramid and Stonehedge without the use of modern technology.
There is the Flood Legends exhibit. It challenges the idea that the Bibles account of the flood was copied from ancient myths. The over 200 legends of an ancient flood are likely from the people who split from Babel. They passed on their knowledge, but their stories became distorted during many centuries of retellings. Some of these myths had their own versions of the ark. There is a comparison of these mythical arks and how they would handle a flood compared to the actual ark. Each of these arks have their own problems why they would likely not survive a flood.
There is The Covenant which appears to be a life sized altar that Noah built in Genesis chapter eight. Noah sacrificed clean animals on the altar as burnt offerings to God. This also represents the covenant God made with Noah and his sons. God promised he would never destroy the world again. The sign as a reminder of that covenant is a rainbow.
If guests want to breeze through the Ark Encounter, they can get it all done in 2-4 hours. But if guests intend on reading every single placard, watch every video, and do all the extra activities outside the ark, they will need two full days. I spent the entire ten hours they were open for. I saw and read most of the exhibits here.
One of my favourite exhibits was this life sized comic strip called Searching for Truth. Guests read along the exact scenes from the actual comic book. It starts with three classmates sharing thoughts from their world religions class. Two of them are not sure what to believe. The other one by the name of Andre is a Christian. Their professor does not believe the Bible to be true. But Andre is able to show his two classmates why the Bible is true and reliable. As guests read along, Andres classmates face life altering circumstances while confronted with the truth of the Gospel. I liked this exhibit because of how large and spacious everything was. This had the largest text of all the exhibits. This made it easy to read and follow along at a relaxing pace. Not to mention this is a story based in modern times which is relatable to us today.
The ground level is one large gift shop. There are all sorts of gifts. Plush animals, clothing, games, toys, jewelry, books, movies, and so much more. There is so much merchandise in this area. There are again fair trade companies that sell handcrafted items. And if that was not enough, there is a coffee and dessert shop as well.
The gift shop is where guests exit the ark. Emzara's Buffet is a great option for food, and in this case, it was my only option. The outside food venues were all closed for the season. This buffet is huge. So big that is has a second floor for extra seating. I have not seen a buffet this large with so much food and desserts to choose from.
There were other areas closed off too. That was not the case for the Ararat Ridge Zoo. This is where the real life animals were located. Animals such as Tibetan yaks, kangaroos, ostriches, and emus. Kids could interact with llamas, goats, alpacas, and sheep. This was a great idea for children, because well....children love animals. This zoo did not have a large variety of exotic animals I was hoping for. But they do have future plans to expand their zoo in the summer of 2019. Across from the zoo people could also go on camel rides. These sort of activities do not excite me, but I can see how these were popular for families.
There is also a mining sluice called Fossil Find. Guests can pan for various materials such as amber, horn coral, petrified wood, or shark tooth fossils. This is an interactive way to teach children a biblical perspective about fossils. If those activities are not enough to do outside, there is even a zip line. I did not go on this, but it is clear that the Ark Encounter is more than just an ark, it is a theme park.
With no shortage of land, and more expansions on the horizon, the Ark Encounter has a promising future ahead. My time here was enjoyable. The amount of work put into this theme park is an unprecedented achievement. No, it did not explain everything about the story of Noah. For example, I did not see any information about Noah getting drunk after the flood. It was not a proud moment in his life and it may not have been necessary to explain why it happened. But if we are to learn what Noahs life would have been like, details like this should not be absent. But few omissions like that are nothing compared to the wealth of knowledge and information I did gain from this experience.
To me, the Ark Encounter is not about proving, but rather about providing. This is all a recreation. They do not prove to me that the story of Noahs Ark happened with absolute certainty. And to be honest, I was not expecting that. There are no recorded eyewitness accounts, no artifacts, no remnants of the ark, and few details in the Bible. But is the story of Noahs Ark possible? This is where the Ark Encounter provides practical realistic evidence. They give credible reasons to support why this likely is a historical event. Their extensive research provides a strong case towards plausible explanations. Of course this all hinges on the existence of a supernatural God.
There will always be attempts to prove or disprove ones worldview. Some skeptics may not be convinced, and that is okay. I would say do not stop investigating. Keep searching for answers. Follow where the evidence leads. And do not be afraid to draw conclusions that may go against what you believe. Truth is exclusive and independent of what we think or feel. And if truth matters, we all owe it to ourselves to search everywhere for it. Even inside a large wooden boat in Kentucky.