Portal 31

Portal 31 Mine Ride

Useful Information

Location: Lynch, Harlan County. I5, Corbin exit 29, US 25E to Pineville, US 119 to Cumberland, KY 160 to Lynch. Signposted from Cumberland.
Open: Lamphouse Museum: All year daily 10-17.
Portal No. 31: All year Tue-Sun 10-17.
Fee: Lamphouse Museum: Adults USD 6, Children (13-18) USD 4, Children (3-12) USD 3, Children (0-2) free, Seniors USD 5.
Portal No. 31: Adults USD 10, Children (13-18) USD 7, Children (3-12) USD 5, Children (0-2) free, Seniors USD 9.
Combi Ticket with Mining Museum: Adults USD 15, Children (13-18) USD 10, Children (3-12) USD 7, Children (0-2) free, Seniors USD 13.
Classification: MineCoal Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: D=30 min.
Address: Portal No. 31 Underground Mine Tour, Lynch, KY, Tel: +1-606-848-1530.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1917 area acquired by the United States Coal and Coke Company.
04-AUG-1917 decision to construct the mine.
10-OCT-2009 opened to the public


The main seam mined here was numbered C. It was also called Benham, Keokee, Taggart, and Roda seam. It is mostly 1.6 m thick and is considered one of the best gas and coking coals in the United States.


Portal 31 is a huge coal mine, which was prepared as a show mine with enormous efforts. The $2.5 million project took decades and included an enormous effort to make the tour safe. The tour is limited to areas of the mine that have proven safe over nearly 90 years. The overhead rock layers were secured with roof bolts and a super-strength metal mesh. Tunnel walls were covered with a sealant and unused mine tunnels were sealed off to keep methane gases out. The mining train was equipped with an overhead metal cab against rock falls.

The mine tour is fully automated, visitors enter railcars and are carried through the mine. At eight stops animatronic miners explain the way the coal was mined. A robotic miner, his son and grandson tell the story of the evolution of mining over generations.

Portal 31 was named after its entrance, which was just numbered. The mine and the surrounding infrastructure were constructed during World War I. The village Lynch was created by the U.S. Steel Coal and Coke Co. in 1917 on an area of 40,000 acres of land they had bought. It was named for the company's first president, Thomas Lynch. The mine was developed with an enormous size, more than 1 million tons of coal per year were mined through Portal 31. In the early 1920s a tipple was built, which is the place where the coal is loaded onto rail cars. At this time the tipple of Lynch was the largest in the world.

The mine provided work for almost three generations. Working conditions were comparably good in the new mine, the seam was 1.80 m thick and so was the mine. Safety was a general principle during the mine worked. Nevertheless, there were certain dangers mining coal, especially the gas which was highly dangerous and caused nausea and explosions. In the early years the proverbial canary in a coal mine was used to detect the gas. Later modern sensors were used, but still there were accidents and miners died in this mine.

The mine tour is completed by a museum, which is called Lamphouse Museum. It may also be visited without a mine tour. It exhibits the tools used by the miners, and many memorabilia. The museum is named after the building it is located at, the Lamphouse No 2. The lamphouse was providing light for the miners, it was used to store and refill the headlamps.

This mine is rather new and the locals hope it will draw many visitors into the area. Actually it was a huge investment as several million dollars were spent for the safety measures and the animatronic. And it took much longer than anticipated, as the opening was delayed several times, the original schedule said 2005 and it was finally opened in 2009. The result is both unique and strange, a sort of coal mining theme park and underground roller coaster ride. We guess every visitor has to decide for himself if it is worth the fee.