Alaska Travel And Tourism

August 18, 2009 12:22 PM | Alaskan Photo Tours

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The Trans-Alaska Pipeline: the place to visit for the caribou

What travels at about six miles per hour, more than 800 river crossings and mountain streams, and three passes, and takes six days to reach its destination?

You and I have it! Oil!

Every day, about 1.8 million barrels of oil travel the Trans-Alaska pipeline from Prudhoe Bay oilfield in northern Alaska to the port of Valdez in Prince William Sound.

Slightly less than half pipe built eight billion U.S. dollars in the mid 70s is buried. The other pipeline is based on 78,000 the ground at 60 feet away following a zigzag pattern to relieve the stress of travel hot oil.

Liquidation of the Arctic region Prudhoe Bay ice-free port of Valdez, the pipeline is visible near Fairbanks, Glennallen, Delta Junction, Valdez and along the Dalton and Richardson Highways.

No wonder that the 800 miles of this 48-inch pipe has become one of the "Alaska must see" attractions. But oddly enough – no it is only humans who become close to him.

Apparently, despite conservationists' fears that the pipeline routes disturb animals migration, it appears that caribou are unexpectedly drawn to the warmth of the pipeline. The oil in the pipe is heated to facilitate flow through the pipe, and caribou have been seen near the pipeline in winter comfort and support supposedly drawing the heat. There are even some reports of caribou give birth to her side.

In summer, caribou are known to congregate around the pipe to get away from mosquitoes.

For humans, those who want to see this marvel man-made for themselves, Fairbanks is a good place to start.

The Alyeska Pipeline Visitor Center, less than 10 miles from the center of the city of Fairbanks, attracts thousands of visitors each year. From early May to mid-September this is the place to see the pipe and learn about its history and how it operates.

If you want to see more of this gas pipeline, Fairbanks is also the ideal launch pad for travel by bus and travel flight to Prudhoe Bay, but must be borne in mind that valid photo identification such as a passport or driver's license is required to participate in the tour of the oil fields Prudhoe Bay, and the entrance to the oil fields is available only through commercial tour operators.

If it does not matter to you, you can always drive yourself to Prudhoe Bay, but keep in mind that most rental companies will not let you drive their cars on the Dalton Highway – should actually that is not enough to have your own car along this route.

But this is Alaska, and this is an adventure, after all ….

The Dalton Highway, life line to the Arctic Alaska, directly parallels the pipeline and in fact was built during the construction of the line to facilitate access to the fields of construction at a distance.

Today, the 420-mile highway begins just north of Fairbanks and drive north across the Arctic Circle to Coldfoot, the first stop for bus trips to the oil fields. Coldfoot is also a jumping off point to the gates of the Arctic National Park.

The 240 miles of there at the end of the trip in Deadhorse not offer services for travelers.

Permits are no longer required to drive the gravel road, but travelers should be prepared to drive slowly as the gravel road is very rough.

In the other direction, and a less rugged perhaps the Richardson Highway Fairbanks to Valdez also offers good views of the Trans-Alaska pipeline.

And finally the port of Valdez, the northernmost port ice-free in the hemisphere West and one of the largest ports in Alaska.

A trip to Valdez allows the best views of the pipe as it winds down to the water marine terminal tide and discharge their liquid cargo awaiting tankers.

What a splendid place to end the journey of 800 miles of this fishing port – Also known as the "Switzerland of Alaska."

Since 1977, 15 billion barrels of oil have flowed through the pipeline from Prudhoe Bay Valdez and tankers have loaded about 20,000 there. At the time of its construction was the largest construction project privately funded and is now one of the largest pipeline systems in the world.

Astronauts say they can be seen from space and caribou like it because it's hot!

A "must" attraction of fact.

About the Author

A freelance travel writer for a number of years, Kevin Retief now publishes several travel web sites including Travel Tidings Alaska at – a free Alaska travel guide about Alaska tourism and Alaska vacations with travel information on everything from Alaskan cruises to cheap hotel rates, maps and weather.

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