Updated: Jan 24
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is the MOST Traveled Wilderness Area in the U.S.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is a year-round wilderness destination of more than 1,098,000 acres. It is also the most heavily used designated “wilderness area”. Consequently, the U.S. Forest Service requires entry permits during the peak season, from May 1 through September 30.
Camping within the BWCAW is restricted to designated sites. The entry permit system helps prevent overcrowding at these limited campsites and is intended to maximize the wilderness experience of participants. While the BWCAW is synonymous with canoe tripping, there are many lakes that overlap the wilderness boundary that are open to motorboats. In addition, there are also numerous hiking trails within the BWCAW. ALL overnight visitors are required to obtain a quota permit.
Entries into the Boundary Waters increased significantly during the “pandemic” as more people took to the outdoors. The quota permit reservations system opens for 2023 reservations at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 25th. Each entry point has a specified number of permits available per day. The Forest Service suggests having both a second (or third) choice in entry points and entry dates when making your plans.
The Forest Service offers these suggestions when making a BWCAW quota permit reservation:
· Remember that the group size is strictly limited to nine people and four watercrafts.
· Plan ahead by having alternate entry dates and entry points in mind. A list of entry points and the corresponding permits is available at BWCA.com: https://bwca.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=maps.entrypoints
· The reservation fee is $6.00 for every quota permit along with $16 per adult, or $8 for youth and seniors.
· Each party must designate a leader. Group leaders (permit holders) are required to have a valid email address to reserve a permit.
· You may also use businesses which are BWCAW Cooperators to book your reservations. Some of these businesses are outfitters who offer this service for a fee. A list of outfitters is available at BWCA.com: https://bwca.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=outfitting.outfitters
· Visitors should remember that their permits must be picked up at the issue station specified on the permit. Permits obtained through the Forest Service must be picked up at BWCAW Office. BWCAW Cooperators can only print permits that are listed through their issue station.
Visitors can make their reservations online at www.recreation.gov/ or by calling 1-877-444-6777. You will avoid delays by making reservations online. Plan ahead and make sure that you log into your account or create a new account BEFORE permits go on sale. Another tip is to refresh your screen at 9:00 a.m. to view the latest updates to the permit website.
Prior to making your BWCAW reservations, review all information in the “Need to Know” and “Fees & Cancellations” sections at www.recreation.gov/permits/233396.
The Forest Service reminds visitors that there are also 254 National Forest campsites outside of the designated wilderness that require no advanced reservations. These camping areas are very popular for the nights before and after your canoe trip. For more information, visit the Superior National Forest website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/superior/recarea/?recid=84168