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Sign Post Forest

80,000 Signs From Around the World!

The first sign in Watson Lake, Yukon’s sign forest, went up in 1942. Why then? Because U.S. soldier, Carl K. Lindley, had the task of erecting signs for the newly built Alaska Highway. For fun, he added a sign to his hometown, Danville, Illinois, along with the mileage.

Since then, around 80,000 signs from around the world have been nailed up in the sign forest!

Rows of signs at the Sign Post Forest at Watson Lake, Yukon, Canada.

Rows of signs at the Sign Post Forest at Watson Lake, Yukon, Canada.

 

What’s in the Sign Post Forest?

The morning we visited the sign forest, it was shrouded in mist that created a surreal feeling. As I walked between row after row of signs, all from somewhere else, neatly nailed on posts, I thought of the comments I’d overheard a local making the evening before. He’d said, “If you think about it, the sign forest is likely the biggest collection of contraband in the world.”

And indeed, he was right. The signs came from everywhere. A license plate from Nova Scotia, Canada’s Ocean Playground. A stolen highway sign with an arrow pointing to Birch Lake. It could have been from many places, as there’s a Birch Lake in various provinces and states. A simple gold arrow on a board that said Heidenburg, Uster. Switzerland?

Signs in the Sign Forest at Watson Lake, Yukon.

Signs in the Sign Forest at Watson Lake, Yukon.

There were speed signs. Reduced Speed Ahead. City signs. Entering the City of Tacoma – Population 158900. How long ago was that? Warning signs. Divided Highway Ahead.

And then there were the signs people made deliberately to leave behind on their Alaska Highway road trip. The Boe/Seegerts Family (Don, Bev, Jesse, Jadine) had nailed theirs up in 2006, noting it was 2144 km to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan! Why hadn’t I thought of making a sign to add to the forest before we left to drive the Alaska Highway on its 75th Anniversary
 

Why is the Alaska Highway Mostly in Canada?

Machinery of the past at the Sign Post Forest at Watson Lake, Yukon,

Machinery of the past at the Sign Post Forest at Watson Lake, Yukon, Canada.

Like many projects that involve political decisions between countries — Canada and the United States here — a lot of talk happened long before any action. Mainly, the issue was which country would pay for a highway to connect the U.S. by a land route to its distant territory, Alaska. Of course, there were already a number of roads in Northern Alberta and British Columbia, but none that crossed the Yukon.

However, the need for a highway became urgent when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Two months later, President Roosevelt and the U.S. Congress approved building the Alaska Highway, on February 6, 1942. And Canada? Well, we agreed to let the U.S. build the road as long as it didn’t cost us anything and we got ownership to the Canadian part of the road when the war ended.

Vintage truck at the Sign Post Forest at Watson Lake, Yukon,

Vintage truck at the Sign Post Forest at Watson Lake, Yukon.

It took 10,000 American soldiers just eight months to push through the forest wilderness and five mountain ranges to build the road. Why so quickly? After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. knew the Japanese would invade, if they could. That meant they needed the highway as a supply route to defend Alaska.

So, the completed highway ran approximately 1,700 miles (2,700 km), in 1942, but due to improvements over the years was 1,387 mi (2,232 km) long in 2012. Of the total mileage, there are 240 miles (321 km) in Alaska.
 

Visit the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake, Yukon

The Sign Forest is right on the Alaska Highway at Watson Lake, Yukon. The Google map of our stops on this part of our road trip down the Alaska Highway is below.

More Things to Do in the Yukon and Alaska

See & Walk to the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau on Your Alaska Cruise

The Mendenhall Glacier & ice caves and Nugget Falls are situated in Juneau, Alaska, which you can only visit by air, or an Alaska cruise ship or Marine Hwy ferry.

Meet Yukon Ghosts of Gold Rush Adventurers on the Klondike Highway

Explore this Yukon ghost town with self-guided interpretive signs to learn about Robinson Flag Station established during the gold rush.

See The Yukon — Come Pan For Gold!

Canada's Yukon Territory is one of the last great untamed frontiers. Its name comes from the Yukon River that flows for nearly 2000 miles through northern British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska. The river has also been known as the "River of Gold" since it was the...

Yukon Transportation Museum: Machines From a Sno-Train to a Monoplane

The Whitehorse, Yukon Transportation Museum, has an excellent collection of machinery of the past used in the far north with snow and muskeg, as well as various artifacts from the history of transportation, including everything from dogsleds and boats, to sea planes and trucks.

Klondike Spirit Paddlewheeler — Boating Up the Yukon River

Take a dinner cruise up the Yukon River on the Klondike Spirit Paddlwheeler, just like adventurers have been doing in Dawson City, Yukon, for a century-and-a-half.

Walk Through the Sign Post Forest on the Alaska Highway

The Sign Post Forest is a quirky roadside attraction on the Alaska Highway in Watson Lake, Yukon – now 75+ years old with 75,000+ signs from everywhere!

Trek Over the Top: Snowmobile the Top of the World Highway

The Top of the World Highway runs through Yukon’s unglaciated mountain ridges providing amazing views, especially on the Trek Over the Top snowmobile run.

Glaciers of Kluane

The single engine of our super skywagon hummed evenly--its rhythm much smoother than my heart's thumping as we flew between mountains, their peaks somewhere above the plane's wings. Marie, our pilot, pointed out the right. "Avalanche!" A small wall of...

Is Carcross Desert the Smallest Desert in the World?

Tiny Carcross Desert is outside Carcross, Yukon, and covers a mere 260 hectares, or 642 acres. Once the bottom of a large glacial lake, these rolling sand hills are home to vegetation such as lodgepole pines as well as plant species that arrived via Berengia thousands of years ago.

What Gives Kluane Lake in the Yukon its Turquoise Color?

A visit to the Yukon is full of many unexpected discoveries--one of the most unusual being the turquoise hue of Kluane Lake. While many head to the Caribbean for its turquoise, few even know that Kluane National Park has such beautiful water. According to NASA...

About the Photo

The photo in the header above was taken by Linda Aksomitis at the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake, Yukon, Canada.

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Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake, Yukon

Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake, Yukon.