Then and Now: vehicle permits

Gearing up to celebrate our 125th anniversary has us digging through archives in search of vintage photos and documents. Over the course of the year, we’ll be sharing our discoveries in our OP125 blog series.

This month, we’re taking a look back on a collection of Ontario Parks vehicle permits dating back to 1957. Purchased and displayed on the front dash of a vehicle, these permits would give people unlimited daily vehicle entry to all Ontario provincial parks.

Park Entrance from the 50's or 60's with two park wardens in the shot, one of whom is speaking into the passenger side of a car. Visible signs say "Park Entrance Permits" and "STOP Park Entrance PERMITS"

In the beginning

The oldest vehicle permit currently in the collection is from 1957. The permit features the Ontario coat-of-arms and a classic depiction of a camping scene.

Crest with an illustrated camping scene inside, with the text Ontario Provincial Parks 1957 Vehicle Permit Department of Lands and Forests, topped with an Province of Ontario coat of arms

The Department of Lands & Forests oversaw provincial parks until they re-organized in 1972 to become the Ministry of Natural Resources.

True vintage

The 1959 permit highlights Ontario’s provincial flower, the White Trillium. The White Trillium was adopted as the provincial flower in 1937.

Bright red background with a stylized trillium illustrated in the foreground in colour (green leaves, white blossom). Text: Ontario Provincial Parks, 1959, Vehicle Permit, Department of Lands and Forests

In 1963, the beautiful Monarch Butterfly was highlighted on the vehicle permit. In 2008, the Monarch was listed as a species of special concern on the Species at Risk in Ontario List.

Illustration of a monarch butterfly, sitting on a white blossum with green foliage, all on a blue background. Text states "1963, Ontario Provincial Parks, Department of Lands and Forests

For 1967, of course Canada’s national animal, the Beaver, is illustrated.

Illustrated beaver, over top of an orange maple leaf, all over a grey blue background. Text states " Ontario Provincial Parks, 1967, Canada's Centennial, Department of Lands and Forests"

In 1970, Polar Bear Provincial Park was created, and this achievement was featured on the vehicle permit for that year. Polar Bear is Ontario’s most northerly provincial park, as well as the largest at 24,000 sq. km.

Illustrated polar bear, within a circle, on top of a silver grey and blue background. Text states "Ontario Provincial Parks, 1970"

The 1973 vehicle permit is the only circular designed permit in the collection.

Circular image of an illustrated dock scene, with two kids fishing off the end of the dock. Text states : "1973, Ontario Provincial Parks"

The first photographs

1974 is when a photograph was first used on a permit versus the stylistic artwork.

Photo of a bright red lily blossom with a black centre and six petals, on a background of green lily leaves. Text states "Ontario Provincial Parks, 1974"

Can you see anything wrong with the guys in this boat from the 1976 permit?

You guessed it: they are missing personal flotation devices (PFDs)!

Photo of two guys in a red canoe with a white stripe, canoeing on water where you can see their reflection. Guys are not wearing PFDs. Text states "1976 Ontario Provincial Parks, vehicle license number, Province/State"

This photo was taken at Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park, a day-use park located just over an hour from Thunder Bay. Today there is a trail and boardwalk that connects to lookout platforms that provide spectacular views of the canyon.

Photo of a canyon with a person standing out and looking over the canyon while playing a guitar. Text shows the trillium symbol for Ontario, and states "1983 Ontario Provincial Parks"

There’s nothing like playing guitar surrounded by impressive geology…they must be playing a rock song 😉

Featured on this permit is iconic Old Woman Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Photo of a little girl in a pink bathing suit on a beach with blue water behind her and a mountain shape in the background. Text states 1986 Ontario Provincial Parks"

Did you know, Lake Superior was one of Ontario’s first eight provincial parks? It was established in 1944.

Parks 100th anniversary

1993 marked the 100th anniversary of Ontario’s provincial parks. The anniversary was commemorated on this permit by the centennial logo and a vintage photograph.

Black and white photo of kids on the beach from the 1920's or 1930's. There is a circle on the image that states Provincial Parks 1893 - 1993 Centennial Centenaire Parcs Provinciaux"

Capturing ’90s fashion

A group of hikers at Silent Lake Provincial Park is featured on this permit from the early ’90s. Have you hiked these trails?

Photo of two older adults with two kids looking (all dressed in 90's fashions) at a trail map that is over a sign saying "Lakeshore Trail 15 km, Lakehead loop" . Text states "1992 Ontario Provincial Parks, Parcs provinciaux de l'Ontario".

In 1996, Ontario Parks adopted a new entrepreneurial operating model that was symbolized by a new name “Ontario Parks” and a new logo.

Beginning in 1998, the logo is featured on vehicle permits. Both permits feature classic ’90s camping style!

Image shows two park passes, one from 1996 and one from 1998. First shows a person looking out from a high place over a lake, and the text states "1996 Ontario Provincial Parks Parcs provinciaux de l'Ontario" and the 2nd shows three kids looking out over a pond and wetland from a bridge. The Ontario Parks logo is in the top left corner and the National Geographic logo is in the bottom right corner. The year is 1998.

Our partners over the years

Over the years, a number of corporate partners have supported Ontario Parks and have been featured on vehicle permits.

A huge thanks goes out to all of our partners!

Split image with two park passes, both displaying the Ontario Parks logo. The first image is of an adult man, sitting on a beached boat, looking out over a lake at sunset with a younger male. Text states "annual 2002/03" and there is a Canadian Tire logo in the bottom left corner. The second is an autumn scene of a bridge in a forest with many orange and brown coloured leaves on it, and a Zellers logo in the bottom right corner. Text states "Annual 2004/05"

Split image showing two park passes. The first is a picture of 5 or 6 kayaks (all different colours) on a beach with a rainbow in the sky. Shows the Ontario Parks and Woods logo's and text states "Annual Bus 2006/07". The 2nd pass depicts a rocky point jutting out into a blue lake with a blue sky in the background. Pass has Ontario Parks and Coleman logo's as well as a box in the left corner that acts as a placeholder space for a hologram. Text states "2010/11 Annual"

Vehicle passes of today

Featuring the iconic moose, the 2014 permit is the first one designed to hang off of a car rear-view mirror.

Image of a park pass of today that could fit on your rear view mirror. Photo on pass is of a bull moose in a wetland, looking directly at the camera. Logos are Ontario Parks and Coleman and text says 2014 Annual. In the left corner there is a placeholder space for a hologram.

The 2018 vehicle permit features a vintage photo from Ontario’s oldest provincial park: Algonquin.

Image of the current park pass shape that fits over a rear-view mirror. Photo on pass shows two men, who look like they're from the early 1900's, one portaging a canoe, and the other with a large pack, with trees in the background. Logo's depicted are Ontario Parks and Coleman. Text states: "2018 Annual".

Have you purchased your 2018 vehicle permit pass?

Make 2018 the year to check parks off your bucket list! Special events, programs, and campaigns will be happening across the province to celebrate Ontario Parks’ 125th Anniversary.

Visit for more information on events and our history.

You can order a seasonal or annual park pass by clicking here to visit the Parks Store.

Do you have any vintage Ontario Parks documents or photos in your personal archives? Share it with us @OntarioParks #OP125.