By Darla Jackson
After extensive repairs to the parking lot, the Portal 31 mining exhibition is now open again according to normal opening hours. Portal 31 Director Nick Sturgill, says the underground mining tour will reopen Tuesday through Saturday from 10am, with the last tour starting at 4pm
Portal 31 was temporarily closed and offered limited tours during an emergency repair project following an underground water source making its way into the main parking lot. Running water was diverted to Looney Creek, which was just yards from the parking lot.
As the first coal mine in Kentucky, Portal 31 has been one of the most popular tourist attractions in Harlan County for nearly a decade. Thousands of visitors flock to Lynch, Kentucky, each year for the chance to enter a real underground mine and ride the authentic manhauler, the mode of transportation miners use to maneuver through the deep underground coal mines. Inside, visitors are taken on a “journey through time” of the mining industry and the history of Portal 31 and “a day in the life” of a Lynch miner from its inception until operations were halted. This interactive tour is accomplished through a combination of animatronic figures, electronic audio and video screens, and the guide’s narration, making Portal 31 a must-see for tourists and locals alike.
With the water issue resolved, Portal 31 is now looking forward to an upcoming makeover of the entire underground mining ride and exhibit. A renovation totaling nearly $2 million is expected to take place very soon, with new animatronics, video enhancements, and sleek new tracks, along with some expansions and site upgrades. This was one of the few things that was actually accelerated by COVID 19. The company’s employees selected to oversee the improvements took advantage of the slowdown to get much of the Portal 31 payments to create in their establishment. The items required for the overhaul are complete and ready for installation on the site.
In addition to the revamp of the mining rides exhibit, the Lynch Depot across the street from Portal 31 now has a new roof. To ensure historical accuracy, the roofing material was purchased from a Washington company that specializes in historic reproduction roofs.
The improvements to both structures, in addition to beautiful landscaping and a fully functional campground, provide visitors with an enjoyable learning experience of the coal mining industry and Harlan County life of yesteryear.