Quirky Attraction: The Trans Alaska Pipeline Visitor Center

alyeska pipeline

Trans Alaska Pipeline Visitor Center
Location: Fairbanks, AK
When to visit: Anytime during daylight hours (which are nearly 24 hours in summer)
Cost: Free
Time needed: 10-15 minutes
Website: Alyeska Pipeline

Back in the early ‘70s, before the subject of drilling for oil in Alaska became the highly-charged political hot-button issue it is today, the Trans Alaska Pipeline, or Alyeska Pipeline, was regarded as one of the great feats in modern engineering.

Completed in 1977, the $8 billion pipeline carries 15 percent of America’s domestic oil production. Parts of the pipeline are underground, and parts are above ground, like this portion at the Visitor Center, eight miles north of Fairbanks.

The visitor center has displays and pipeline maps that lay out all the facts. You can stop by anytime to learn about this structure and touch it up close.

trans alaska pipeline map display

Also on display are some of the “pigs of the pipeline,” which travel through the pipeline along with the oil and help detect any unexpected changes in the system.

pigs trans alaska pipeline

How long is the Trans Alaska Pipeline?

The pipeline travels a staggering 800 miles down the entire state. While the visitor center is in Fairbanks, you can drive south for hours and see the pipeline popping up everywhere, over mountains, across rivers, through forested terrain.

pipeline mountain

The pipeline often has its own bridges as it crosses more than 500 rivers and small streams.

pipeline bridge

Oh, and this is bizarre but true: The pipeline has its own Twitter account. They tweet out the number of barrels that pass through each day, which is roughly 500,000 per day.

Want to hear another Alaska Pipeline fun fact? According to its website, “Telluric currents caused by the same phenomenon that generates the Northern Lights can be picked up by the pipeline and zinc/magnesium anodes. The anodes act like grounding rods to safety return these currents to the earth reducing the risk of damage to the pipeline.”

9 thoughts on “Quirky Attraction: The Trans Alaska Pipeline Visitor Center”

  1. Oh Alaska! So random and I hate to say it, but I kind of liked that it would pop out of nowhere and zigzag across the road. You never knew where it would pop up next! And it’s not like it was huge or anything. For some reason, as a kid, I thought it would be just ginormous! But it kind of wasn’t, just very very long:-)

    1. Agreed. Felip kept saying how much of an eyesore it was, while I was more stunned at the fact they could build this thing for hundreds of miles. We’d drive for two hours without seeing it, and then it would pop up again. I can’t imagine the labor involved to construct it.

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