Portal 31 resumes normal business hours
By Darla Jackson
The Portal 31 Mining Exhibition is now back to its regular hours of operation after extensive repairs to the parking lot. Portal 31 Director Nick Sturgill, says that the underground mining tour is once again open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m., with the last tour beginning at 4 p.m.
Portal 31 had been temporarily closed and offered limited tours during an emergency repair project prompted by an underground water source that found its way to the main parking lot. Rushing water was rerouted to Looney Creek, which was only yards away from the parking area.
As Kentucky’s first exhibition coal mine, Portal 31 has been one of the most popular tourist attractions in Harlan County for nearly a decade. Thousands of visitors each year make their way to Lynch, Kentucky, to get the opportunity to go inside a real underground mine and ride the authentic manhauler, which is the means of transportation miners use to maneuver through the deep underground coal mines. While inside, visitors are taken on a “tour through time” of the mining industry and history of Portal 31 and “a day in the life” of a miner in Lynch from inception until operations were ceased. This interactive tour is accomplished through a combination of animatronic figures, electronic audio and video displays, and the narration of the tour guide 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 exhibition. A refurbishment totaling nearly $2 million is expected to occur very soon providing new animatronics, video enhancements, and sleek new tracks along with some expansions and site upgrades. This was one of the few things actually accelerated by COVID 19. The employees of the company selected to oversee the improvements took advantage of slow business to create much of the Portal 31 installments at their facility. The items needed for the overhaul are complete and ready for installation at the site.
In addition to the revamp of the mining ride exhibition, the Lynch Depot located across the road from Portal 31 is now boasting a new roof. To ensure historical accuracy, the roofing material was purchased from a company in Washington that specializes in historical reproduction roofing.
The improvements of both structures, alongside 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.