Then and Now: park entrance signs

Driving up to your favourite park, seeing that park entrance sign can feel like coming home. Today, we’re taking a look at some Ontario Parks entrance signs and how they have evolved through the ages!

Each park is unique and so are many park entrance signs. With too many to choose from, this blog highlights one sign from each zone of the Ontario Parks system.

From field to forest

Emily Provincial Park is located close to Peterborough, in the heart of the Kawarthas.

It’s tough to see, but in the historic photo below, the sign reads, “Department of Lands and Forests” under “Emily Provincial Park.” The Department of Lands & Forests oversaw provincial parks until they re-organized in 1972 to become the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Black and white photo of a field with bramble, some fencing, a flag and a sign reading Emily Provincial Park
Emily Provincial Park, then

Before Emily became a provincial park in 1957, the land was farm fields. As you can see in the historic image, there are very few trees.

New green and white park sign with Ontario Parks logo that says Emily, surrounded by deciduous trees
Emily Provincial Park, now

With some assistance from park staff in the beginning, trees and shrubs were planted along the boundary of the park to re-naturalize the land. You can see in the modern image of the park entrance that the park has transformed from field to forest.

body of water with a forested shoreline in the early evening
Pigeon River from the dock at Emily Provincial Park

Explore the Marsh and Fern interpretive trails to learn about the flora now at Emily.

A reminder of days gone by

Located in northwestern Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior, Neys Provincial Park is rich in cultural history. Signs at Neys are mounted on old boom logs used during the logging days to signify the history of logging in the area.

Grainy photo of a dark brown sign with a yellow Ontario trillium logo and yellow writing "Neys Provincial Park" -- being held up by a large, tall wooden poll.
Neys Provincial Park, then

The above sign shows the old Ontario logo and says “Ministry of Natural Resources” — the Ontario Parks brand didn’t exist yet!

Green Neys sign with the Ontario Parks logo, being held by two large logs on a clear afternoon in the winter.
Neys Provincial Park, now

The more recent signage at the entrance of Neys Provincial Park emphasizes the current Ontario Parks logo, adopted in 1996.

View of water from a white sandy beach with natural debris scattered around, and a forested shore in the distance
Neys Provincial Park

Different depictions — look closely

Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park‘s original entrance sign is from 1966. To the right of the sign there is a depiction of Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer and founder of New France. Samuel de Champlain was one of the first Europeans to pass through the Mattawa.

Black and white photo of Samuel de Champlain front gate sign with the explorer depicted to the side of the sign
Samuel de Champlain, then

In the late 80s, the depiction on the entrance sign of Samuel de Champlain was changed to that of an “unnamed voyageur.” A voyageur was chosen to commemorate the culture of travellers – tough, hard-working, boastful and jovial, despite 16 hour days paddling huge birch bark canoes and portaging tonnes of goods over herniating portages.

New version of the sign with explorer depicted on the side, but with Ontario Parks logo included
Samuel de Champlain sign with depiction of an “unnamed voyageur”

The Mattawa River was considered the most difficult and dangerous part of the cross-Canada canoe route where voyageurs played an instrumental role in the fur trade for 400 years.

Two people in a light blue canoe by a shoreline looking up at a forest with binoculars
Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park

Visitors to Samuel de Champlain can learn more about the history of the fur trade in the Mattawa Valley through voyageur adventure interpretive experiences and by visiting the Mattawa River Visitor Centre.

Original stonework

Established in 1970, Chutes Provincial Park is the only provincial park between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Black and white photo of a dark sign that says Chutes Provincial Park, no logo, flanked with stone pillars and including a park ranger in the foreground
Chutes Provincial Park, then

The original stonework of this entrance sign has endured the test of time.

Green Ontario Parks sign with Ontario Parks logo mounted on to a white background, flanked by two stone pillars
Chutes Provincial Park, now

Located only 1 km off of the Trans-Canada Highway, Chutes Provincial Park features a 6 km trail with views of scenic chute waterfalls.

White water running over rocks through a river that is sparsely lined with coniferous trees
Chutes Provincial Park

Reflecting agricultural heritage

Point Farms Provincial Park is located in southwestern Ontario on Lake Huron. The design of this sign is unique and resembles a barn.

Brown Province of Ontario sign with old logo that says Point Farms mounted on a structure built of barn board and wood shingles
Point Farms Provincial Park, then

This photo was the first version of an entrance sign for Point Farms, taken during the 1970s. The park’s original master plan indicated that park signage was to reflect the agricultural theme of the area.

Green Ontario Parks sign with logo that says Point Farms mounted on a structure built of barn board and wood shingles
Point Farms Provincial Park, now

To this day, the entrance sign incorporates barn board which compliments the Stirling barn built in 1889 (still in the park).

Field with wildflowes, bramble, and grasses and farm fencing running through on a sunny clear summer day
Point Farms Provincial Park

There were several farmsteads on the property that is now Point Farms Provincial Park. Fence rows, tree lines, and apple trees remain from these old homesteads.

Although park signs have changed and evolved overtime, the rationale behind the creation of provincial parks has remained constant with the desire to preserve and enjoy Ontario’s natural and cultural heritage.

Share your photos of entrance signs!

Do you have any vintage photos of park entrance signs throughout the years or do you have an Ontario Parks bucket list for this year? Take a photo with park entrance signs to keep track of the parks you’ve visited and tag us @OntarioParks.