Watson Lake: Gateway to the Yukon

Watson Lake is a small town located at km 980 on the Alaska highway, close to the border of British Columbia and Yukon. While traveling north on the Alaska highway, it is the first town and the gateway to Yukon.

Watson Lake is the second largest town in Yukon and caters as a key transportation and distribution center for mining and logging activities in Yukon, Northern BC and NWT. It is also increasingly being visited by tourists and have a few notable sites within the town.

Sign Post Forest
An evening at Watson Lake

Watson Lake is a good place to stop for a night, with full services (food, gas and showers) available, on your Alaska Highway road trip. Some of the things to see and do in Watson Lake are:

  1. Sign Post Forest
  2. Northern Lights Space and Science Centre
  3. Wye Lake
  4. Watson Lake Airport Terminal
  5. Lucky Lake
  6. Watson Lake

Sign Post Forest

Sign Post Forest Entrance

Sign post forest is the most recognized landmark in Watson Lake. It is hard to miss as it sits right on the Alaska Highway in the heart of the town. The first sign was put up in 1942, by an American soldier who was part of the crew building the Alaska Highway at the time. Today, the forest contains more than 80,000 signs put up by individuals, about their hometown from all over the world.

Which destination should I select next?

You can get your own sign and post it on the available spots in ever expanding forest of signs. If you forget to bring your own sign, do not worry. The visitor information center makes and sells sign boards to be posted in the forest (Note: Visitor center is closed for 2020).

There are more sign posts in this forest than there are residents in this town!

Northern Lights Space and Science Centre

Northern Lights Space and Science Centre is located opposite to the Sign Post Forest on the Alaska Highway. It contains a large panoramic dome theatre, displaying a video of the Aurora Borealis. It also has some interactive displays on topics of science behind the northern lights and the Canadian space program. For more details on the schedule for various show times, check out its website here (Note: The Northern Lights Space and Science Centre is closed for 2020).

Northern Space & Science Centre

Wye Lake

First Wye Lake

There are two Wye Lakes in the town of Watson Lake – Wye Lake & Second Wye Lake. The Second Wye Lake is bigger, but it’s surrounded by private properties. The first or the smaller Wye Lake is visited by tourists often. It is a great spot for someone looking for an easy and small hiking trail. A 3 km, Wye Lake Trail goes around the circumference of the entire lake.

It has many information signs about the flora and fauna found in the region. Many different species of mushrooms are also found here.

At the northwest end of the lake, there is a small community park with the same name – Wye Lake Park. Most community gatherings, events and parades happen here. When I was here, in the 1st week of August, on a Saturday morning, there was a small fair/community gathering. There were few local food vendors selling various bakery items, barbeque, sandwiches and lemonades. A band of local musicians was playing at the park’s gazebo and children were running around up and down the grassy slopes.

Wye Lake Trail
Wye Lake Trail Sign

Watson Lake Airport Terminal

Watson Lake Airport Terminal

Watson Lake Airport Terminal is rich in history. It depicts the rich aviation history of the region in the form of historical displays and artwork showcased on the walls all across the terminal building. Also, there is an old hanger still in place which was called the BC-Yukon Air Services Ltd. Hangar which was one of its kind on the Alaska Highway. It was built for US military planes refueling purposes on the way to Alaska. It is a good historic site to visit for anyone interested in the WWII history.

B.C. – Yukon Air Services Ltd. Hangar

Lucky Lake

Lucky Lake Recreational Area
Lucky Lake

Lucky Lake recreation area is about 10 km southeast of the town of Watson Lake. It is a good day use picnic area with a sandy lake shore, volleyball net and a slide winding down, into the lake.

Beach volleyball at the lake shore?!
Water slide at Lucky Lake

Watson Lake

Watson Lake

Watson Lake is located 10 km northwest of the town of Watson Lake. There is a Yukon Government Campground very close to the lake shore. This is an excellent campground for anyone looking to camp in the Watson Lake area.

Fishing boat launching area
Clear waters of the Watson Lake

The lake shore is very close from most of the campsites and one can easily walk to the lake. It is a great spot to stargaze late into the night with your tent being literally 5 mins from the lake.

A storm brewing at the Watson Lake
Sunsets like these…
Therapeutic evening on the Watson Lake

All of these places can be visited in a day, but I would recommend spending a night at Watson Lake Campground. It is a surreal experience to just sit and gaze at the lake under the late evening or a night sky.

If you have been to Watson Lake and had the same experience, kindly share it in the comments section below. Also, add if I may have left out any places to visit in this area.

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