Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Superior National Forest

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A Place Worth Preserving
The BWCA Wilderness 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. 

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

Plan Ahead and Prepare
For the most current, comprehensive information on planning a trip to the BWCAW, please review the BWCAW Trip Planning Guide from the U.S. Forest Service to help you plan a safe and successful trip, and learn more about the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area. 

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.  


Plan Ahead and Prepare

Wilderness trips don't just happen, they are the result of careful planning. Thoroughly review the BWCAW Trip Planning Guide and always remember to leave a trip itinerary with family or friends prior to departure (see page 24 for an example).  

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: Plan Ahead and Prepare 

Part 3: Know Before You Go Part 3 will be shown to all groups at permit issuance. 

Learn 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 the permit is issued.

Pass Discounts
The Senior/Access pass discount applies to the recreation fee of the pass holder only. All Interagency Senior and Access Passes must be presented for validation when picking up permit or discount will not be honored.

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

Cancellation Policy

You may cancel online anytime up to two days before the entry date for overnight permits. If you cancel reservation two or more days prior to entry date, all recreation fees paid will be refunded. If you cancel reservation on the entry date or one day prior, you will be charged a penalty of $32.00 (two adult user fees), any additional recreation fees paid will be refunded. Cancellations made through the call center must be made 9:00 AM - 11:00 PM CT.  

No refunds are granted for weather events including but not limited to storms, rain, wind, hail, ice, snow, flood, lightening, tornados, excessive heat, cold, bugs, locusts or drought. No refunds for personal, work, or medical emergencies; accidents or casualty. No refunds for operator error, technical issues or network outages. No refunds for force majeure, unforeseen circumstances, or acts of God.

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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