Watson Lake

Watson Lake is the first Yukon community encountered by the northbound traveller and is the second largest town in the Yukon. A comfortable day’s drive from Fort Nelson, BC or Whitehorse, Yukon make it a popular stopover point. There are several hotels, campgrounds and a number of interesting tourist attractions. Watson Lake grew from a small isolated outpost to a thriving community when the Alaska Highway was routed through its center. It became the accommodation and supply center for the building of this section of the highway.

The Sign Post Forest is Watson Lake’s most famous attraction. It was started in 1942 by Carl Lindley, a homesick GI, while working on the Alaska Highway. When repairing a directional post, he decided to add a sign for his hometown of Danville, IL, and inadvertently started the huge collection of signs. It is still being added to each year by visitors who wish to promote their own communities. The Town of Watson Lake maintains the Sign Post Forest, which is known as one of The Yukon’s most famous landmarks with over 75,000 unique signs.

Click here to view a map of Watson Lake Yukon

What is Watson Lake Known for?

Watson lake is famous for it’s massive collection of signs, know as the Signpost Forest. There are over 70,000 signs in the Signpost Forest and every year visitors bring new signs from around the world to add to the collection. Watson Lake is also home of the Northern Lights Center, a state of the art facility designed to explore and educate the mystery of the Aurora Borealis. It has a direct link to the Space Telescope Science Institute which shares the latest images from the Hubble Space Telescope and other NASA science missions.

How far is Watson Lake from Whitehorse?

Watson Lake, Yukon is 440 km (273 miles) south east of Whitehorse, the Capital of the Yukon.

Alaska Highway Interpretive Center is open daily during the summer months, located behind the Signpost Forest. The center provides information as well as an exceptional display of photos, and other audiovisual presentations. It is managed by Yukon Tourism and is one of five centers in the Yukon. Open May 1st to September 30th from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week. 867-536-7469


In 1898, 14 year old Francis (Frank) Gilbert Watson, an American from Lake Tahoe, came to the Yukon with his father Robert Montgomery Watson. They travelled the Chilkoot Trail route to Dawson City and had a successful Gold Mine in the Klondike. Unfortunately, like many gold miners of the day their mine was flooded out in 1905 and Frank & Robert decided to return home to Lake Tahoe. A few years later Frank returned to The Yukon through Wrangell, Alaska and up the Stikine and Dease Rivers. This brought him to the Liard River Valley near what is now the town of Watson Lake. It was here he met Adela Stone, a formidable & well-known Kaska woman.

Because of Frank’s relationship with Adela, the Kaska people allowed Frank to trap, prospect and settle in the area. Frank and Adela Watson have long been recognized as key figures in the early development of this part of the Yukon and there are still several members of the Watson family that live in the area.

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