Watson Lake is a small town located on the world-famous Alaska Highway, also known as the ‘gateway to the Yukon’ for being the first Yukon community that welcomes northbound travelers into the province. The town is named after Frank Watson, who arrived here in 1897 during the Klondike Gold Rush. It is also considered a key transportation hub for Yukon due to its geographical location and significant Highway access to British Columbia.
The current population of Watson Lake is approximately 790 (2016 Census), and the town offers hotels, campgrounds, recreation possibilities, and visitor information. It is a perfect stop for services, and to spend some time on your Alaska Highway trip.
How to get there
Watson Lake is 967 km from Dawson Creek, BC, which is Mile 0 of the World Famous Alaska Highway.
Alternatively, you can get to Watson Lake via scenic Stewart-Cassiar Highway. Watson Lake is 740 km from Kitwanga, BC.
Sign Post Forest
The unique attraction in this town is Sign Post Forest, which was started by a simple act of a homesick American soldier in 1942. While the American soldiers were working on the construction of the Alaska Highway, one of the soldiers posted a sign pointing in the direction of his hometown that was more than 4,300 km away. Since that time, thousands of visitors from around the world have posted their sign, turning it into a signpost forest.
Fun Fact: There are more than 90,000 signs installed by visitors from all around the world. Walk the lanes and be creative to find a spot for your sign. Locating your sign on a next visit will be a challenge, as it is continually growing.
Visitor Information is located behind the Signpost Forest. It is open 7 days a week from May to September (hours may change: 8 am to 8 pm). The visitor centre offers great information, a display of photos, and an audiovisual presentation.
Tip: Remember to obtain your Yukon Gold Explorer’s Passport from the visitor centre. You get it stamped from various museums, cultural centres, and many more historical and unique places in Yukon. When your passport is full, drop it off at any Yukon Visitor Information Centre, and you will be entered into a draw to win real Klondike placer gold. In addition to the draw, you will receive a Yukon lapel pin, and the passport is yours to keep as a souvenir.
Northern Lights Centre – During the Summer Months, the centre’s domed 100 seat theatre showcases videos of Northern Lights. In Winter, nature takes over the showcase, so the centre is used for community events.
There are a few places to stay such as Historic Air Force Lodge, but we camped at the Watson Lake campground. It is a road accessible Government campground with approximately 40 campsites, and 8 pull-through sites. The campground is very inexpensive, $5 per night.
GPS coordinates for the Watson Lake campground: 60.0643°N 128.78548°W
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