Heritage, Arts & Culture
Take a trip around the world in the Sign Post Forest
See the forest for the signposts
Sometimes the North feels like it’s a million miles away from everything, but if you want to be precise about it, visit the Signpost Forest in Watson Lake.
A miniature maze maintained by the town, the forest has almost 100,000 signs tacked on to towering signposts, listing locations around the world alongside their distances from the Yukon. The forest started “growing” in 1942 when a homesick American soldier erected an homage to his own hometown in Illinois.
A northern origin story
Private Carl Lindley, of Company D, 341st Army of Engineers, was injured while working on the Alaska Highway near Lower Post, B.C. He was taken to recover at an aid station in what is now Watson Lake, a few miles over the border into the Yukon. While there, Lindley was given light work duty repairing and repainting directional posts. Of his own accord, he added one for Danville, Illinois, where he was from.
The original sign, located at Mile 635 on the Alaska Highway, is no longer there. It was replaced during a 1992 party celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the forest, which had grown exponentially by then.
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Make your mark
Today, it has expanded even further. License plates, laminated pages, road signs and handmade plaques decorate the forest, giving shoutouts to hometowns all over the world—from Wyoming in the U.S.A to Winterburg, Germany.
Visitors can bring signs from home or make one at the Visitor’s Interpretive Centre, open daily from mid-May to mid-September, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The centre also has nails and a hammer to borrow if you forgot yours. While you’re there, check out additional attractions, including equipment used during the construction of the Alaska Highway, and a 60-seat theatre that shows a video about the highway’s construction.
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If you’re the type to plan way ahead, book your trip for 2042—that’s the year Watson Lake will open a time capsule. A time capsule that was buried in the forest during the 50th-anniversary celebrations in 1992.