The exact location of the original ark built by Noah at the behest of God is unknown, but a full-size reproduction in Kentucky is garnering much attention, topping the list of tourist attractions.
At a cost of $100 million, Answers in Genesis, a Christian apologetics ministry that professes a Young Earth Creationist view of life’s origins, opened Ark Encounters seven years ago with the goal of convincing visitors that the Biblical story of the flood is a literal version of a historical event. It was intended as a sister attraction to the Creation Museum opened in 2007. The centerpiece was an ark that conformed to Biblical proportions, making it the largest freestanding timber-frame structure in the world. Logs up to 50 feet tall were harvested from as far away as British Columbia and Oregon. Altogether, 3.3 million feet of wood, or 612 miles worth of planks, were used in the ark. As for the builders, instead of Noah’s sons, Shem Ham and Japhet, the new ark employed 75 Amish craftsmen and hundreds of other workers who had to be trained in traditional woodworking.
“The Ark Encounter in Williamstown is by far Kentucky’s most popular attraction — by search engine volume, at least,” Bet Kentucky wrote, placing the site at the top of its list. “Featuring a 510 feet-long, 85 feet-wide replica of Noah’s Ark that stands ten stories tall, Ark Encounter is a one-part amusement park and one-part Christian Creationist museum that offers (scientifically questionable) explanations as to how Noah and his family could have housed every living creature on earth aboard the Ark for forty days and forty nights.”
The Bible explicitly stated the dimensions of the ark.
And this is how thou shalt make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. Genesis 6:15
A Biblical cubit (ama in Hebrew) is the length from the elbow to the fingertips of an average man. The exact length is unknown, but it is generally accepted to be between 19.8 – 20.6 inches long.
The goal of the immense project was to show the true scope of Noah’s Ark, and that it’s possible to build a structure that could hold the 16,000 animals believers estimate survived the Biblical flood.
The modern version of the Biblical ark was not intended to be a floating solution for divine flooding, since it has a concrete floor and is supported by concrete pillars anchored into the ground. Launching the ark would require a unique series of natural disasters culminating in a flood that engulfs landlocked Williamstown, Kentucky, 600 miles from the nearest beach.
“While it may seem odd for the Ark to be located on dry land — hundreds of miles from the ocean — Williamstown was chosen in part due to the centrality of the location within America. Since opening in 2016, it has indeed become a pilgrimage of sorts for Christians across the country, welcoming over 1 million visitors each year,” Bet Kentucky wrote.
Bet Kentucky organized the list on the basis of rankings on Tripadvisor’s 25 best things to do in Kentucky, then combined it with Google search volume data from AhRefs.com over the last 12 months.
The Ark Encounter got first place with around 60,000 searches on Google, followed by Churchill Downs of Louisville in second place with about 50,000 searches, and Mammoth Cave of Brownsville coming in third with 36,000 in search volume.
In early 2020, the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum were voted by readers of USA Today as the top religious museums in the United States.
The park is not resting on its laurels and, in 2020, launched a $3 million virtual reality experience to give visitors a taste of what it would be like to travel back in time to see Noah’s Ark and the Genesis flood.
The “40 Days & 40 Nights of Christian Music” is currently running at the park until September 9.
Even in the planning stages, controversy over the ark led to a prolonged court battle. The exhibit sparked concerns about the separation of church and state after Governor Matt Bevin approved $18 million in tax breaks for the project, according to a report by Fox 17 Nashville.
Critics also objected to the park’s plan to hire only Christian workers. Potential employees must sign a “Statement of Faith” which disavows same-sex marriage, premarital sex, and adultery. These conditions are acceptable for religious institutions, but AiG had applied to participate in the Kentucky Tourism Development Program. The conditions were approved after it was reasoned that the park was part of a religious institution and not a tourist attraction. The US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky upheld AiG’s right to religious preferences in its hiring while still qualifying as a tourist attraction.