There’s one of two ways a person reacts when receiving orders to Fort Knox: thrilled or disappointed. Being a Kentucky native, my reaction was the former. But, if you’re part of the disappointed group, fear not. I’m here to help you change your mindset by providing general information on a few things you need to know about Fort Knox.
1. The Gold
Photo by Charles Diaz
Most people know Fort Knox as the home of the nation’s gold. The Bullion Depository is located immediately outside the main gate (the Chaffee gate).
As you might expect, security in and around the Bullion Depository is incredibly strict. The area over the depository is a no-fly zone, even for military aircraft.
Right and Up tip: Do not stop outside the gold depository and take a photo. Department of Mint police will respond immediately.
Photo by Brent Moore
Here in Kentucky, most locals refer to distance in minutes, not miles. With that in mind, right outside Fort Knox is the small town of Radcliff, which mostly consists of fast food restaurants and a Walmart. Elizabethtown is a small city 30 minutes south of Fort Knox. For “big city” amenities, you’ll need to make the 45-minute drive to Louisville. Louisville is a huge, diverse city with attractions like the Louisville Zoo, Churchill Downs (home of the famous Kentucky Derby), the Muhammed Ali Museum, the Kentucky State Fair, the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and more.
Right and Up tip: Traffic in and out of Louisville can be brutal during rush hour, so plan your trip accordingly. Also, the highway that runs from Louisville to Fort Knox (Highway 31W, also known as the Dixie Highway) is referred to as the “Dixie Die-way” by locals because of the number of traffic accidents on this road. It’s actually the No. 1 most dangerous highway in the state, and the pedestrian accidents on this stretch of road are unusually high. Be especially alert while driving Hwy 31W.
Louisville also has the nearest airport to post and is serviced by major airlines including Southwest. If road tripping is more your style, Fort Knox is within driving distance of major cities like Nashville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Saint Louis and Memphis.
Right and Up tip: Visit one of Kentucky’s many small towns for some quaint charm. One of my personal favorites is Bardstown.
4. Cadet County
Fort Knox is the home of the US Army Cadet Command. In fact, Knox’s motto is “Strength Starts Here” as a nod to the many cadets who train here each summer. Knox is also home of the US Army Human Resources Command. These two, along with the 19th Engineer Battalion, are the largest units on post.
Right and Up tip: The majority of cadets do not have access to personal vehicles, so the commissary and PX are more crowded than usual in the summer. Try to shop prior to 1600 (minus lunch from 1100-1300) to avoid the crowds.
5. On-post Housing
In the last decade or two, Knox has downsized considerably because many units, including all Armor units and the Armor One Station Unity Training, transferred to Fort Benning. Therefore, a large portion of military housing sits empty. Some neighborhoods have been transitioned into “mixed rank” neighborhoods to fill homes. Also, civilians are able to rent homes on post, although the majority of civilians in Knox Hills homes have some sort of military connection, like being retirees or DoD employees. Civilians do not have access to military facilities such as the commissary, PX or on-post schools.
Right and Up tip: Since basic allowance for housing rates do not align with the rental market in the Knox area, many families choose to live on post. However, if you choose to live off post, popular areas include Radcliff, Elizabethtown or smaller communities like Vine Grove, Rineyville or Brandenburg.
6. High School Rivalry
Fort Knox and Fort Campbell, the other Kentucky Army base, are two of the few stateside military bases that have on-post high schools. Every fall, there’s a huge rivalry football game between the two teams known as the Army Bowl. The football game alternates locations between Forts Knox and Campbell.
7. Medical Care
Fort Knox’s Ireland Army Hospital transitioned into an acute care facility in August 2016. For emergency room services, patients can go to Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown or one of the many Louisville hospitals/healthcare systems, including Norton’s Healthcare, Baptist Louisville, Kentucky OneHealth or the University of Louisville medical system. A few other health care units on post, including the obstetrics unit, closed in August 2016 as well, so if you need care from a provider not on post, you can get a referral for off-post care.
8. Unpredictable Weather
Photo by Morgan
Kentucky weather can be unpredictable, and as a Kentucky native, I can vouch for this! Locals joke that we go through all four seasons in a week. Winter brings a mixture of snow, rain, sleet and ice, and summers are hot and humid. When any winter precipitation is predicted, the grocery stores typically sell out of bread, milk, eggs and toilet paper in a hurry. And contrary to popular belief, winters in Kentucky can sometimes be rough. In 2015, we had more than a foot of snow in one day. In 2009, we had a severe ice storm that knocked out power in parts of the state for more than two weeks. The temperatures change quickly in the spring and fall, so tornadoes and severe weather are not uncommon.
Right and Up tip: With the exception of the historic homes, most homes on post do not have a basement. In case of tornadoes, have a severe weather plan in place in advance. Also, if you live on post, you are required to shovel the sidewalk in front of your home. Stock up on rock salt and buy a snow shovel at the beginning of winter (if you don’t already own one).
Photo by Paul and Cathy
Fort Knox has a large training area, so there is a lot of wildlife on post. You’ll frequently see deer, opossums, and even the occasional cougar roaming around. During deer hunting season, specific sections of the training areas are open to hunters. Find more information about hunting on post through the Hunt Control Office.
Right and Up tip: There area a few lakes on post, most of which lie in the restricted training areas. However, there are two lakes that are not in a restricted area and allow fishing and kayaking. They are located immediately east of the first road from the Wilson gate.
10. Higher Education
Photo by Angela
Fort Knox offers opportunities to further your education through Central Texas College, Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, Sullivan University, University of Louisville and Western Kentucky University programs right on post. In nearby Radcliff, McKendree University also operates a local campus. Just up the road in Louisville, there are even more colleges and universities.
Right and Up tip: Most Kentucky natives worship college basketball. They support one side of a fierce rivalry: the University of Kentucky Wildcats or the University of Louisville Cardinals. Pick a side and cheer them on!
Cover Photo by Alberto Cabello
About the Author
Bailey is a newlywed Army spouse and Human Resources professional. As a Kentucky native, she was thrilled when her then-boyfriend received orders to Fort Knox. One year later, she and her Soldier were married and she became fully immersed in the military lifestyle. Bailey spends her days reading, watching Netflix with her husband, playing with her fur babies, or dreaming about where they will travel next. She is the author of Becoming Bailey, a lifestyle blog about family, faith, finances and travel.