The town of Watson Lake is located in Southeastern Yukon. As the "Gateway to the Yukon", Watson Lake is situated at Kilometre 1016.8 (Mile 635) of the Alaska Highway at its junction with the Robert Campbell Highway, making it the first community north of the 60th parallel as you enter the Yukon. The junction of the Stewart/Cassiar Highway with the Alaska Highway is 26 km. (16 miles) west of the community. Watson Lake also connects by road to Tungsten, Northwest Territories via the Robert Campbell Highway and the Nahanni Range Road. Watson Lake is 459.2 km. (285.2 miles) S.E. of the Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon.
Francis (Frank) Watson, whom the town is named after, was born in 1883 in Tahoe City, Placer County, California and died in 1938 in Ft. Saint John, B.C. In 1897, at the age of 14, Frank and his father set out for the Yukon in search of gold. Fighting their way through unmapped country, they arrived on the upper Liard River in the spring of 1898. The Watsons found themselves on the shores of a lake rumoured to have been named "Fish Lake" by the native Kaska Indians for its abundance of fish. When his father returned to California in 1900, Frank stayed behind to work their claims. He later married an attractive Indian girl from Lower Post and from then on led an unrestricted and unhurried life. The upper Liard and its tributaries were his trapping and prospecting grounds while his home was on the shore of Watson Lake. The lake retained his name when construction began on the military airport in 1941 and the Alaska Highway, completed in 1942.
The Watson Lake area lies within the Kaska-Dene Indians claim as their traditional territories. Former trading posts in the region date back to the early 19th century, but these posts did not last. It wasn't until 1887, with the Cassiar gold rush, that a new trading post and store was erected at the current site of Lower Post, just south of Watson Lake.
In 1939 the government of Canada committed to building a chain of airfields across the northwest under the Northwest Staging Route Program. The airfield at Watson Lake was a link in this chain. The site for the airport was surveyed, funds were made available towards the end of 1940, and construction began in 1941. The community of Watson Lake began as an accommodations and supply center for this construction. In that same year, a road way was built between Watson Lake and Lower Post, the northern-most community in B.C.
Today, the town of Watson Lake is the key transportation, communication and distribution center for mining and logging activities in southern Yukon, northern B.C., and a portion of the N.W.T. It also serves as a major service area for tourism and is the site of regional Territorial Government administration services. Thank you to Cathy Beyard for correcting historical information on this web page.
Tourism: Northern Lights Space & Science Center, Alaska Highway Interpretive Center, Watson Lake Signpost Forest, Heritage House Wildlife & Historic Museum, Lucky Lake, The Liard Canyon, Greenway's Greens Golf and Country Club, Wye Lake Park.
Fishing: arctic grayling, dolly varden trout, lake trout, and northern pike in the Liard river, Albert Creek, and Watson Lake.
Campgrounds: Yukon Territorial Campground, Watson Lake 3.9 km west of town centre on the Alaska Highway. There are two private campgrounds in the town with 136 full hook-up stalls, open from April to October.