Probably one of the most famous landmarks along the Alaska Highway is the Sign Post Forest located in Watson Lake, Yukon, Canada. The Sign Post Forest is exactly what it sounds like; a forest of signs. It’s tradition to bring a sign from your hometown and nail it up somewhere in the rings of posts all carrying dozens of signs of all sizes. New signs are added daily and in fact, there is over 77,000 unique signs hung in the forest. I even heard one being hammered in while I was visiting. Unfortunately I wasn’t aware of this tradition before I left home or I definitely would’ve stolen a road sign and threw it in the RV. Elkhart, Indiana was already represented, however, so my sign would have been a little redundant. Still, I’ll take any excuse to steal road signs I can find.
So who decided to start a Sign Post Forest anyway? Is this all they have to do in Canada? Are the sign companies trying to start a viral marketing scheme? Actually, the tradition dates back to the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942. Carly Lindley was a homesick soldier helping construct the highway. In honor of his hometown, Carl hung a sign with his town’s name on it on the mile marker at the corner of Watson Lake Airport Rd and the Alaska Highway where the Sign Post Forest Still stands today. Apparently homesick people like carrying around signs from their hometown and the tradition really caught on. Like most viral successes, Carl had no clue his idea would stick. He visited the area a few years later and was astonished at the amount of signs posted. There are now signs everywhere from everywhere and it quickly become a time honored tradition, encouraged by the local authorities and maintained by the Rotary Club. There are signs from Germany, Switzerland, Colorado, Mexico, California, Florida, and every little town imaginable. It’s really interesting to see all the international adventurers represented. The real reason I think the forest is so popular is it’s right at the point in your travels where you are on the brink of insanity from staring blankly at pine trees and the hood ornament of your car for hours on end. It could be a collection of urinals and it would be a welcome distraction from the hours of driving you have left. So before you leave your hometown to travel the Alaska Highway, dress in dark clothes and go steal a road sign. Keep the tradition alive!