Ark Encounter Brings the Epic Story to Life in Biblical Proportions

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Former South Florida Bible College & Seminary students visited Ark Encounter during a Spring Break trip. Pictured left to right: Monica Carvalho, Alda Sousa, Priscilla Ribeiro, Cristalia Anjos, Lucimar Beltrao, Marta de Melo and Tatiana Gonçalves

In the heartland of America, a replica of Noah’s Ark built to biblical proportions rises above rural Kentucky drawing visitors from around the world to experience a piece of the Bible brought to life. The Ark Encounter, located in Williamston, Kentucky, is one of the largest faith-based attractions in the country, drawing one million visitors to the theme park each year.

Noah’s Ark Encounter

Based on the biblical account in Genesis, Noah’s Ark was a massive ship, built at God’s command, to save Noah, his family and representatives of every kind of land-dependent, air-breathing animal from the global flood that took place over 4,300 years ago.

Now touted as the biggest timber framed structure in the world, the Ark is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high. These dimensions are based on a historical understanding of a cubit as described in Genesis 6:14-16. For comparison, the Ark is one and a half times the length of a football field and about the height of a 7-story building. Amish tradesmen were enlisted to construct it by hand, using tools Noah may have had at that time.

However, the interior of the Ark Encounter is fitted with informational displays, often utilizing modern animatronics to demonstrate what life on the Ark may have been like and describes scientific theories about the global flood, creation, the Ice Age and dinosaurs, among others. The park also features Ararat Ridge Zoo, Dining at Emzara’s restaurant, Noah’s Village, Screaming Eagle Zip Lines, an Answers Center and Truth Traveler Virtual Reality Experience.

Ken Ham, speaker, author, founder and CEO of Answers in Genesis, is the visionary behind the full-sized Noah’s Ark. He became internationally known for his 2014 creation/evolution debate with Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” which has been watched by an estimated 20 million people, and started Answers in Genesis “to reclaim the foundations of our faith, which are found in the Bible, from the very first verse.”

Mark Looy, co-founder and chief communications officer of Answers in Genesis, explains why Noah’s Ark is so critical to that mission. “About 70 percent of our guests at the Ark are Christians according to surveys, so for Christians we want to give them answers to the most asked questions people have about Noah’s Ark and the flood that in turn helps them to evangelize more effectively because in these days skeptics are constantly attacking the authority and accuracy of the Bible… And for non-Christians who visit, we’re very evangelistic. We do not hide the fact that we present the gospel throughout the Ark and Creation Museum.”


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Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Virginia. Photo Courtesy: Answers in Genesis

How it came to be

The idea of building an ark as well as a creation museum goes back to around 1980 when Ken Ham was leading a creationist ministry in Queensland, Australia. “After Ken moved to America, we founded Answers in Genesis in 1993 and searched for a destination that would be easy to get to. We discovered that two-thirds of Americans can drive to the Cincinnati, northern Kentucky area in one day,” Looy said. So, the 75,000-square-foot Creation Museum was built in 2007 on 70 acres near Cincinnati and an additional 800 acres was found just a 45-minute drive south in Williamstown, Kentucky, for the Ark Encounter themed attraction, which opened in 2016.

It took more than six years to raise the $100 million to build Phase I, which includes the full-size Ark and infrastructure, including a 1,500-seat restaurant, playground and zoo; however, there are more phases to come, with organizers claiming only about 40 percent of their plans have been completed.

Still the Ark draws about one million guests to the attraction each year and the Creation Museum, 45 minutes away, receives over 500,00 visitors annually. According to Looy, these numbers are holding strong, “although the state shut us down for almost three months during COVID.”

Initially funded almost exclusively through individual donations, Looy said ticket sales and food consumed at the restaurant currently cover their day-to-day operations, and donations are earmarked for additions, such as a new welcome center currently under construction that will house a first century model of Jerusalem at the time of Christ.

Interestingly, Looy said that when the initial funds were being raised for their Creation Museum, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, senior pastor for 47 years at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, was their honorary chairperson and Ken Ham was invited to speak at Coral Ridge in the 1980s.

A groundbreaking new documentary, “The Ark and The Darkness: Unearthing the Mysteries of Noah’s Flood” was also partially filmed at The Ark Encounter. The movie, scheduled to appear in theaters March 20-21, depicts the tale of a worldwide flood preserved in every major culture around the world and features interviews with leading scientists. Dan A. Biddle, Ph.D., executive producer of the documentary, said, “The Ark Encounter is a terrific representation of Noah’s Ark. The displays and exhibits inside take the visitor to what it would have been in a pre-flood world.”

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Pastor Mitch and Jolene Thompson with their sons, Luca and Gunner at the Ark.

Why does he feel an understanding of the Ark is important? “Christians today can have their faith strengthened by understanding that actual, historical truth begins with the very first pages of Scripture, including the flood. Jesus did not die for the sins of a mythical world deluged by a mythical flood that had fallen due to the sins of a mythical Adam. The Old Testament describes real people who lived in actual history,” said Biddle.


South Floridians share their experiences

Since the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum are the largest faith-based attractions in the U.S., it’s no wonder that several families have made the trip to experience this historical replica.

A group of 14 students and family from South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary travelled to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum two years ago on a Spring Break trip. Diana Cox, now Writing Lab Coordinator at South Florida Bible College, said, “We had a blast. It was just fabulous, and we were really overwhelmed at just how well researched everything was.” What most impressed Diana was the detail. “Every practical thing within the Ark had been thought of… and it was just filled with museum quality exhibits every five feet.”

Mitch Thompson, pastor, Recovery Church in Delray Beach, and his wife, Jolene Thompson, visited the Ark Encounter with their two sons, ages seven and two, during their family vacation. “We were driving right by and thought, a life-sized Ark, that’s pretty cool!” said Jolene. “As Christ-followers it was important for us to bring the Bible to life for Gunner [their son], and my husband and I both wanted to see it.” Surprised by “how massive it is from top to bottom,” Jolene said she was impressed with all the biblical and historical information tying it all together, especially the timelines. However, 7-year-old Gunner preferred the zoo and park. His favorite attraction was the zipline.

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Manny Mendieta and his sons stand in front of the Ark Encounter.

Looking for a unique fall family trip in October 2023, Manny and Vianca Mendieta, who attend Calvary Chapel Parkland, flew to Kentucky to visit the Ark Encounter with their two sons, ages six and four, who are “in love with Bible stories,” so they could see those stories come to life.

“The Ark is massive, and you see a cross in the door that was very symbolic and brings you back to the whole purpose,” said Manny. “It is impressive to see how Noah built this a few thousand years ago with his kids! Just realizing what a feat it was and that it really did happen definitely brought perspective.”

As a mother of young children, Vianca said it was the animal encounters that impacted her. “As they spoke of each animal, they were constantly sharing scripture. They said, ‘this is why we have to take care of the animals; God has entrusted us to do this.’” Within the Ark, her children enjoyed interacting with an animated model of Noah and his wife, talking about life on the Ark, what food they ate and how they kept busy. “God thought of everything,” said Vianca, “the water they would drink, the way the air circulated in the Ark, how to dispose of waste… Today we think we need so much to be able to do our day-to-day, and it demonstrated the simplicity of life; how God provided then and God provides now, everything that we really need.”

Three levels of exhibits within the Ark include details about how Noah and his family may have lived on the Ark, and while not all of this is explained in the Bible, Zooy said some of the exhibits include artistic renderings based on our best guess. For example, “the Bible doesn’t say what skin tone Noah’s family had, we had to assume that based on genetics, but the Bible does give an indication about how many animals were on the Ark and based on that you can get an idea of how much space they may need, and a lot of research went into it.”

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Lexington and Beauregard Berish inside the Ark.

A homeschool mother of five, Alana Berish, who attends Journey Church in Boynton Beach, took her two oldest children, ages 8 and 10, on a field trip to the Ark Encounter after they completed a “Mystery of History” curriculum that studies Ancient History alongside the Old Testament of the Bible. “It really gave light to what they were already studying, so we thoroughly enjoyed it and found it very educational,” said Alana. Her son Beau, 10, said he enjoyed seeing how everything worked on the Ark. “It’s hard to believe that some of that stuff was possible, but when you got to see it firsthand, it’s pretty cool,” said Beau. Alana was most fascinated by the Ark itself, saying “it’s just spectacular that they were able to build that intricate system that was so well functioning with primitive tools.” However, traveling to the Creation Museum the next day, Alana said they most enjoyed a 4D ride they experienced that took them back in time to the Ark.

Although Alana visited the Ark Encounter in the fall, she said it ties in beautifully with Easter because all of the prophesies of the Old Testament lead directly to Jesus. “What you ultimately take away from a visit to the Ark is just how real the Bible is, and anything that solidifies that in the child’s or the adult’s mind is powerful.”


Easter and other events

ark encounterDuring the month of Lent, visitors to the Ark Encounter can attend a special lecture on the Crucifixion of Jesus, which Looy said, “is not for the squeamish” but includes an evangelistic presentation. The Creation Museum also features a Living History experience on Easter weekend, March 29-30th, featuring staff in accurately recreated costumes who give details on the historical background of Easter and Passover.

There are also special events throughout the year. Over the summer, the world’s largest Christian music festival is held at the Ark Encounter for 40 days and 40 nights on July 30–September 7, 2024. A Family Homeschool Experience is held at the Ark Encounter from May 9–11, 2024, and you can find a whole list of faith-based conferences, concerts, educational programs and camp experiences on their website.

Whenever you decide to visit, you can plan your trip or learn more about the Ark Encounter by visiting and

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