Watson Lake, Yukon

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Watson Lake
Town of Watson Lake
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Watson Lake
Location of Watson Lake in Yukon
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Watson Lake
Watson Lake (Canada)
Coordinates: 60°03′45″N128°42′25″W / 60.06250°N 128.70694°W / 60.06250; -128.70694 [1]
Territory Yukon
  Town MayorChristopher Irvin
   MPs Brendan Hanley
   MLAs Patti McLeod
 (2021) [2]
  Land109.77 km2 (42.38 sq mi)
 (2021) [2]
  Density10.3/km2 (27/sq mi)
Time zone UTC−07:00 (MST)
Forward sortation area
Y0A 1C0 & Y0A 0A2
Area code 867
Website www.watsonlake.ca

Watson Lake is a town in Yukon, Canada, located at mile 635 on the Alaska Highway close to the British Columbia border. It had a population of 1,133 in 2021. The town is named for Frank Watson, an American-born trapper and prospector, who settled in the area at the end of the 19th century. [3]


Watson Lake is near the Liard River, at the junction of the Robert Campbell Highway and the Alaska Highway. The Stewart–Cassiar Highway's northern end is 22 km (14 mi) west of Watson Lake. The town is also served by the Watson Lake Airport; the airport was formerly served by Canadian Pacific Air Lines and other local and regional airlines, but now by Air North and corporate and charter services.

Watson Lake is the main centre of the small forestry industry in Yukon and has been a service centre for the mining industry, especially for the Cassiar, a now abandoned asbestos mine in northern British Columbia and the Cantung Mine, a tungsten mine on the Yukon-Northwest Territories border in the Mackenzie Mountains.

Tourist attractions in Watson Lake include the Northern Lights Centre [4] and the much-imitated original Sign Post Forest. The Sign Post Forest was started in 1942 by a homesick United States Army Corps of Engineers G.I. working on the Alaska Highway, who put up a sign with the name of his home town and the distance. Others followed suit and the tradition continues to this day. As of August 2010 there are more than 76,000 signs of various types depicting locations across the world. The Sign Post Forest is one of four roadside attractions featured on the first series of the Canadian Roadside Attractions Series issued by Canada Post on July 6, 2009. [5]

Watson Lake and the neighbouring Upper Liard settlement are the home of the Liard River First Nation, a member of the Kaska Dena Council. The Two Mile area immediately north of the core of town is a concentrated area of First Nations residents, while the town extends 8.0 km (5 mi) out to the turn-off of Airport Road. (Originally, Airport Road extended directly to the Alaska Highway, but most of it is now part of the Campbell highway.)


The Town of Watson Lake annexed Two Mile and Two and One-Half Mile Village on January 2, 2016. [6]



Like most of Yukon, Watson Lake has a subarctic climate (Dfc) with mild to warm summers and severely cold, snowy winters. Watson Lake experiences annual temperature average daily highs of 21.5 °C (70.7 °F) in July and average daily lows of −27.5 °C (−17.5 °F) in January. Record high temperature was 35.4 °C (95.7 °F) in July 2009 and the lowest was −58.9 °C (−74.0 °F) in January 1947. Watson Lake has more precipitation than other parts of Yukon with an average annual snowfall of 196.1 cm (77.2 in) and 262.0 mm (10.31 in) of rainfall, resulting in larger trees and a more viable forest industry. [7]

Climate data for Watson Lake (Watson Lake Airport)
Climate ID: 2101200; coordinates 60°06′59″N128°49′20″W / 60.11639°N 128.82222°W / 60.11639; -128.82222 (Watson Lake Airport) ; elevation: 687.4 m (2,255 ft); 1981–2010 normals
Record high humidex 5.611.111.520.034.233.341.436.826.817.611.77.941.4
Record high °C (°F)8.9
Mean maximum °C (°F)−1.8
Mean daily maximum °C (°F)−17.5
Daily mean °C (°F)−22.5
Mean daily minimum °C (°F)−27.5
Mean minimum °C (°F)−44.0
Record low °C (°F)−58.9
Record low wind chill −66−63−51−36−16−50−5−19−43−55−64−66
Average precipitation mm (inches)30.9
Average rainfall mm (inches)0.1
Average snowfall cm (inches)40.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm)
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm)
Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm)13.910.
Average relative humidity (%)75.573.759.946.341.443.547.749.656.469.179.876.960.0
Source 1: Environment and Climate Change Canada [7]
Source 2: Météo Climat (mean maximum) [8] (mean minimum) [9]


Federal census population history of Watson Lake
1941 58    
1951 238+310.3%
1981 748−7.4%
1986 826+10.4%
1991 912+10.4%
1996 993+8.9%
2001 912−8.2%
2006 846−7.2%
2011 802−5.2%
2016 790−1.5%
2016  (rev.)1,083+37.1%
2021 1,133+4.6%
Source: Statistics Canada
[2] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]

In the 2021 Canadian census conducted by Statistics Canada, Watson Lake had a population of 1,133 living in 499 of its 564 total private dwellings, a change of

Panethnic groups in the Town of Watson Lake (2001−2021)
Panethnic group2021 [2] 2016 [21] 2011 [22] 2006 [23] 2001 [24]
Pop. %Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%
European [lower-alpha 1] 600435565515630
Indigenous 455305205305265
Southeast Asian [lower-alpha 2] 40300200
East Asian [lower-alpha 3] 151010100
South Asian 10100150
Latin American 0101000
African 0100010
Middle Eastern [lower-alpha 4] 00000
Other/multiracial [lower-alpha 5] 2001000
Total responses1,125790800845910
Total population1,1331,083802846912
Note: Totals greater than 100% due to multiple origin responses

See also


  1. Statistic includes all persons that did not make up part of a visible minority or an indigenous identity.
  2. Statistic includes total responses of "Filipino" and "Southeast Asian" under visible minority section on census.
  3. Statistic includes total responses of "Chinese", "Korean", and "Japanese" under visible minority section on census.
  4. Statistic includes total responses of "West Asian" and "Arab" under visible minority section on census.
  5. Statistic includes total responses of "Visible minority, n.i.e." and "Multiple visible minorities" under visible minority section on census.

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