Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Superior National Forest

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is a unique area located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. Over 1,098,000 acres in size, it extends nearly 150 miles along the International Boundary adjacent to Canada’s Quetico and La Verendrye Provincial Parks, bordered on the west by Voyageurs National Park with Grand Portage Monument to the east. The BWCAW contains over 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 12 hiking trails and over 2,000 designated campsites. 

This area was set aside in 1926 to preserve its primitive character and made a part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964 with subsequent legislation in 1978. Wilderness offers freedom to those who wish to pursue an experience of expansive solitude, challenge and personal connection with nature. The BWCAW allows visitors to canoe, portage and camp in the spirit of those travelers that came before them centuries ago. 

For the most current, comprehensive information on planning a trip to the BWCAW, please review the BWCAW Trip Planning Guide (PDF). 

The BWCAW Act of 1978
In 2018, we observed the 40th anniversary of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act (PL 95-495). The 1964 Wilderness Act created the National Wilderness Preservation System that included the BWCA. The BWCAW Act of 1978 added more acreage and specific management direction with the purpose to protect, manage, enhance and restore the area. Learn more about the BWCAW Act of 1978

Notifications and Alerts

Permit & Season Information

A permit is always required to enter the BWCA Wilderness:

A BWCAW permit allows a group of up to 9 people and 4 watercraft to enter the wilderness.

Need to Know

A permit is always required to enter the BWCA Wilderness:

BWCAW Quota Permit Requirements

BWCA Wilderness Regulations and Rules

Permit holders and group members are responsible for understanding and following all BWCAW Regulations and Rules.  

BWCAW Leave No Trace Video Series

Permit holders are responsible for sharing the BWCAW Leave No Trace Video Series with their group prior to departure:
Part 1: Trip Planning
Part 2: Packing and Preparing
Part 3: Know Before You Go 

The third video in the series will be shown to all groups when picking up the permit. 

Reserving a Permit for a Non-Profit?

Learn more about reserving permits for a non-profit organization 

Day Use Motor Permits and Overnight Motor Permits 

Fee Policy

Recreation Fee
Required for all overnight visitors May 1 – September 30. Per person, per trip recreation fee:
Adult $16.00 Child/Youth 0-17 $8.00     

Minimum Deposit
A minimum deposit of $32.00 (equal to two adult recreation fees) is required when making an advanced reservation for a quota permit. When recreation fees are less than $32.00, the difference will be refunded when you pick up your permit.

Pass Discounts
All Interagency Senior and Access Passes must be presented for validation when picking up permit or discount will not be honored.

Reservation Policy
Any group member and alternate listed on BWCAW permits at time of reservation must be paid for at check-out. 

Reservation Fee
The $6.00 reservation fee is non-refundable. 

Cancellation Policy

Contact Information

Mailing Address

8901 Grand Ave Place Duluth MN 55808

Permit Reservations: 1-877-444-6777

Phone Number

218-626-4300

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