In 1942, during the construction of the Alaska Highway, the United States Army Corps of Engineers erected mileage posts at their camps that listed places, distances and directions in the Yukon, other Canadian cities, cities within the United States of America and also other parts of the world. One of these posts was erected at the Wye, the corner of the Alaska Highway and the road to the Watson Lake Airport, where the Sign Post Forest stands today. The original post is the only mileage post of its type to survive from the Alaska Highway construction.
Carl Lindley, a homesick soldier, added his hometown to the army signpost and started a time-honoured tradition. People from all over the world continue to add their hometown signs to the Sign Post Forest on a daily basis in the spring, summer and fall.
In 1992, Carl Lindley returned with his wife, Eleanor, to Watson Lake for the first time since his departure in 1943. He was overwhelmed when he saw the size of the Sign Post Forest. At a sign re-enactment ceremony, he replaced the original Danville, Illinois sign that had rotted away long before.
The Sign Post Forest has been protected and nurtured over the years by ordinary citizens of what became Watson Lake, the Lions Club, the Hippie Club and finally the Town of Watson Lake. The Sign Post Forest is one of the best known attractions along the 2,414-kilometre highway from Dawson Creek, BC to Fairbanks, AK. At the end of 2004, signs in the Forest numbered almost 55,000.
"I had received an injury near the border of BC and Yukon, just North of Lower Post. My foot was smashed while building a platform to fill dump trucks. I was taken to the Company aid station at nearby Watson Lake where I spent the next three weeks recuperating. Not able to do much work the C.O. asked if I could repair and repaint the sign that had been run over by bulldozers. I asked if I could add my hometown sign of Danville, Illinois as I was homesick for my hometown and my girlfriend Eleanor..."
- Carl Lindley of Danville, Illinois was a soldier working on the highway with Company D, 341st Engineers in 1942.