Watson Lake: A Forest of 70,000 Signs… North to Alaska

If you look closely, you just might find your hometown among the 70,000 signs of Watson Lake.

If you look closely, you just might find your hometown among the 70,000 signs of Watson Lake.

When you are driving north to Alaska and enter the Yukon Territory, the first major town you come across is Watson Lake. The community has a strange claim to fame: a forest of signs from 70,000 communities around the world. People travelling the road have been leaving them behind for 70 years; they represent towns, cities, businesses, individuals and organizations.

According to legend, it all started in 1942 when a homesick GI who was helping build the Alaska Highway put up a sign that pointed toward his home and listed the miles. Ever since people have continued the tradition of saying “I was here.”

Peggy and I, along with our friends Bob and Linda Bray, wandered through the sign forest looking for our hometowns (no luck). It was like entering a maze. The following photos provide some perspective on what it is like, but you truly have to be there to get the whole effect.

Watson Lake sign forest

This close up provides an idea of how closely the signs are packed together and how far people have come to place them here. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

My friend Bob Bray, provides a perspective on how high the "trees" in the forest are.

My friend Bob Bray, provides a perspective on how high the “trees” in the forest are. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Watson Lake sign forest in Yukon Territory.

Just about anything can be turned into a sign, as this toilet seat demonstrates. Also note the skull. How about “Parking for Estonians Only.”

I wonder how many street signs from around the world have been ripped off to make their way to the Yukon Territory?

I wonder how many of these street and town signs from around the world were stolen before making their way to the Yukon Territory?

The Watson Lake Sign Forest also features equipment used in making the Alaska Highway. In this case, Peggy serves as my model. Later I will do a blog on the building of the Alaska Highway in 1942.

The Watson Lake Sign Forest also features equipment used in making the Alaska Highway. In this case, Peggy serves as my model. Later I will do a blog on the building of the Alaska Highway, which took place in 1942 under the threat of Japanese invasion.

Speaking of the Alaska Highway, it was also featured in the forest.

Speaking of the Alaska Highway, it was also featured in the forest. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Just outside of the sign forest, we stopped at the corner of 9th Street and the Alaska Highway. It was time to continue our journey.

The Watson Lake Sign Forest provided an interesting stop on our way north to Alaska.  But it was time to hit the road. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

NEXT BLOG: In 1980 Mt. St. Helen, located in the state of Washington, blew its top and became one of the world’s most famous volcanoes. Peggy and I stopped by for a visit on our way home from Alaska. (I am presently at Burning Man and will return next week to begin the Burning Man 2013 series.)

6 comments on “Watson Lake: A Forest of 70,000 Signs… North to Alaska

  1. Ha! A bit of home sickness opened up an avalanche of same, along with a combination of organic display of hometown pride and tagging. People are funny. This is funny. And you have just the eye to put it here for us to see!

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