The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is a 48-inch oil pipeline that traverses 800 miles (1,300 kilometers). It was built by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company in 1977 to transport crude oil from Prudhoe Bay’s oil fields to a port in Valdez to be loaded onto tankers and shipped to U.S. refiners. The cost to construct the pipeline was $8 billion, making it one of the largest privately-funded construction projects in Alaska. Moreover, it’s one of the largest pipeline systems in the world, and because much of the ground that it is laid on is frozen sections of the pipeline are either built above ground or buried and insulated.
It’s astonishing that the pipe has withstood the harsh Alaska weather for so long. Today, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline is a popular tourist attraction, especially for those who want to get a photograph of themselves touching it.
The Alyeska Pipeline Visitor Center on the Steese Highway at milepost 8.4 between Fox and Fairbanks is also worth a visit. This free-to-enter attraction provides a great introduction to the pipeline as it gives historical and background information as well as fun facts. For example, did you know the pipeline’s highest elevation is 4,739 feet (1,444 meters) at Atigun Pass? After leaving you’ll really understand what makes the Trans-Alaska Pipeline such an engineering marvel.