Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Noah's Ark - We're glad they remembered the giraffes!

One of the main reasons that we scheduled a stop in Lexington, Kentucky, was to make a day trip to a small town that is 36 miles north. Williamstown, Kentucky, wasn't on the tourist map until 2016. That's when an ark of magnificent proportions was built.

We arrived before they opened at 9:00, and we were surprised at the long line at the entrance ahead of us. This is definitely a popular place to visit! From that ticket office, visitors are bussed through the woods, and then they walk through the arch of the rainbow.

It's quite a walk to the ark, and we were guided by green leafy animals that were also heading that way in groups of two.

It's hard to get the ark to fit into a single picture up close. But we tried, as we approached from the rear of the boat.

Arriving before the park opens at 9:00 helps to avoid some of the lines that might happen later in the day. We're not sure if this metal walkway (that can weave lines of guests back and forth) is ever full of people. But we were glad to walk right past it this morning.

Once inside the ark, it was a little confusing about how to proceed. We were in the bottom of the boat, filled with containers for food, and small cages for smaller animals in groups of two. Now what do we do? 

We'd never thought about all the types of animals brought on board, but the makers of the ark determined that many of them were dinosaur-like and didn't look familiar to us.

Other replica animals looked vaguely familiar, and a lot furrier than those scaly dinosaurs.

Denisa was just glad to see that the giraffes made it onto the ark, as that is her favorite animal.

The bible specifically lists the instructions for the size of the ark that Moses should build. It is supposed to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits tall. From reading the signage, we know that there are different definitions for cubit, but they used the "fingertips to elbow" measurement that averages to 20.4 inches. In more understandable measurements, the Kentucky ark is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet tall.

The inside area of the Kentucky ark had to make room for walkways for thousands of people, as well as plumbing for bathrooms, food options for those that must eat in the ark, and souvenir shops. It obviously does not look like the real ark on the inside. A model shows a possible scaled version of the real ark, that housed only long lines of animal enclosures--no bathrooms, and no souvenirs.

Visitors are allowed to see the construction of the Kentucky ark, and Mark is deep into the bowels of the boat. It looks nice and clean because these builders didn't have to worry about it being water tight. The real ark would have been spread with pitch and tar to keep the water out.

While the real ark was made of gopher wood, the Kentucky builders used local wood. It's always fun to find Engelmann spruce along a hiking trail. We saw it again today in the lodge poles on the Kentucky ark.

It's a slow walk through the ark, with things to see and so many displays to read. We got a bit of a break from all the reading to listen to Noah answer questions. A very well done animatronic, Noah would answer the questions that visitors could choose from a list on a computer screen, 

The third floor included displays of the living quarters of the four couples on the ark. It makes sense that they would bring some of their best furnishings to save from the flood. But with all the animals to feed and take care of, it's hard to imagine that they had much time to lounge around their quarters, painting and playing music.

The ark even includes a giant door for loading and unloading the cargo. While it rained for forty days and nights, they were probably on board for closer to a year waiting for things to dry outside. Mark is standing by the door, ready to open it when the time is right.

Meanwhile, Denisa was watching as Noah and his wife are sending out the birds to check to see if the water has receded.

We were surprised to see that we had been walking through the three layers of the ark for two and a half hours! There are many displays to read and things to see. Our legs were tired from standing so long, and our minds went into museum-overload after two hours. We moved much faster on the third level. Then we took the ramps down to exit out the front of the ark for the obligatory ark encounter picture with Noah and the boys.

When the park first opened in 2016, the visit would be over, because that was all that was here. Now the complex includes several buildings and eateries. Just like everywhere else, they are having trouble hiring enough people willing to work, so some of the lunch options were closed. We were glad to see that they were able to find people willing to sing, and we enjoyed a thirty minute concert at the outdoor stage. Then we went to the 2500-seat auditorium to watch another program. We thought they did a poor job of scheduling things, because the film we wanted to see about building the ark was only shown very early or very late.

On the other side of the ark is the Ararat Ridge Zoo, so we wandered through to see all the animals.

They have a kangaroo encounter, where visitors are allowed to stroll along a sidewalk with the animals. But all of the kangaroos preferred to rest in the shade under a tree in the far corner away from the visitors.

Some of the kangaroos looked very relaxed even though people were inside their enclosure.

Denisa likes the animal shows, but they were scheduled at the same time as the music possibilities. We supposed they assume that visitors will like one or the other--not both. So we missed the lemur encounter.

But we did make it a priority to see the "keeper chat" about the sloths. Actually, we still had to stay behind the wire fence, but at least these animals (that sleep over 20 hours each day) were awake during the show.

It's hard to take a good picture when separated by a chain link fence, but we tried anyway.

The "show" consisted of a trainer telling us about the usual habits of the sloths, which includes a weekly trip down the tree to go to the bathroom. These guys get fed well, so they don't have the worries of finding a new tree with new leaves to eat. They are trained to touch a target stick with their nose so they are rewarded with one of their favorite foods--a green grape.

The zoo also included a zebra, as well as two other animals that have been crossed with a zebra. This is a picture of a Zonkey, and they also had a Zorse.

Our last show of the day was the "Animals have talent" at the pavilion by the zoo. In front of a packed crowd, they brought out animals from all over the world--like the African porcupine,

and the Asian armadillo.

One of the favorite animals was this guy, who was wide-eyed for his ride around the crowd in a tiny pouch.

All the animals did tricks, including jumping long distances to return to the security of that pouch.

We also saw that this African pig can play ball.

If visitors are interested in spending more money, there are plenty of opportunities to do that. There is a virtual reality experience, zip-lining, and camel rides also available for an additional fee. After six and a half hours at the Ark Encounter, our legs were tired and we were ready to head home. We were blessed with a beautiful blue sky day, and temperatures in the 70s that felt very comfortable.

By our normal standards, this was a very expensive day. Our reduced-price senior tickets were still $45 each plus tax plus a reservation fee. We were also surprised to see that they had raised their parking fee to $15 for visitors. The good news is that children are admitted free during 2022, so this is a very popular family park. After we rode the bus back to the parking lot, we stopped to take a final picture. This area was too crowded for this photo this morning, and Denisa wanted one because these are her favorite animals. We're a little confused about why there are four giraffes here at the ark, but we're glad they remembered the giraffes!

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