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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. 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
BWCAW permit reservations cannot be made in the Recreation.gov mobile app. Please use the latest version of Chrome for best results.
Prior to making reservations, review all information in the Need to Know and Fees & Cancellations sections on this page.
Reminders about BWCAW rules and best practices:
One permit per day, per permit holder: To ensure everyone has the opportunity to make a reservation, be aware that when a visitor makes multiple reservations on the same entry date or has overlapping reservations, all but one permit will automatically be cancelled by the Forest Service. Cancelled permits will be returned to the inventory.
Adding Alternates: Alternates cannot be added once a reservation has been made. Check the box under a group member’s name to select them as an alternate. Only the permit holder or an alternate can pick up the permit, photo I.D. required.
Issue Stations: Select an issue station near your entry point prior to making a reservation, check the “Issue Stations” tab on this page for hours and locations. The BWCA Wilderness is over one million acres in size and reserved permits must be picked up at the issue station specified. Once a permit is placed with a cooperator, the issue station cannot be changed.
Non-profits: For information about reserving BWCAW permits for a non-profit organization, click here.
Successful wilderness trips are the result of careful planning:
All permit holders are required to watch three Leave No Trace education videos and review the BWCAW Regulations and Rules prior to receiving their permit:
Watch parts 1 & 2 of the BWCAW Leave No Trace video series prior to departing for your trip. To receive credit for watching the videos, click the links in the emails sent to the permit holder to access the videos (use Chrome to avoid errors).
If you have not viewed parts 1 and 2 of the video series before arriving at your issue station, you will need to watch the complete BWCAW Leave No Trace video series before receiving your permit.
Thoroughly review the BWCAW Trip Planning Guide and always remember to leave a trip itinerary with family or friends prior to departure (see page 23 for a sample trip itinerary).
High Water Alert
High water conditions have created unpredictable conditions. Water is high, fast-moving, and cold. Increased caution is advised near rapids and any swift moving water. Portage trails can be underwater. Be prepared by calling ahead to your outfitter, guide, cooperator, resort, or the local Ranger District office for the latest conditions of roads, lakes, trails, rivers, and portages.
Stairway Portage: A crew is rehabbing the portage "staircase and steps." Please allow for extra time on this portage due to construction. The campsite just west of the portage is temporarily closed.
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.
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:
The third video in the series will be shown to all groups when picking up 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
Required for all overnight visitors May 1 – September 30. Per person, per trip recreation fee:
Adult $16.00 Child/Youth 0-17 $8.00
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.
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.
The $6.00 reservation fee is non-refundable.
8901 Grand Ave Place Duluth MN 55808
Permit Reservations: 1-877-444-6777