Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Superior National Forest

Planning a trip to the BWCAW? Click on the Show Notification arrows at the top of the page and read the latest Alert regarding COVID-19. Click on the Issue Stations link to the right, under Additional Information, to find out if your issue station is open, closed or operating virtually during COVID-19. Click on Superior National Forest COVID-19 for the latest closure orders and press releases.

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.

Permit & Season Information

Planning a trip to the BWCAW? Click on the Show Notification arrow at the top of the page and read the latest Alert regarding COVID-19.
Visitors taking an overnight paddle, motor or hiking trip, or a motorized day trip into the BWCAW from May 1 – September 30 are required to obtain a quota permit. Reservations are recommended since there are a limited number of quota permits available for each entry point. 

Need to Know

Planning a trip to the BWCAW? Click on the Show Notification arrows at the top of the page and read the latest Alert regarding COVID-19. Click on the Issue Stations link to the right, under Additional Information, to find out if your issue station is open, closed or operating virtually during COVID-19. Click on Superior National Forest COVID-19 for the latest closure orders and press releases.

Visitors taking an overnight paddle, motor or hiking trip, or a motorized day trip into the BWCAW from May 1 – September 30 are required to obtain a quota permit. Reservations are recommended since there are a limited number of quota permits available for each entry point. 

Self Issued permits are required for non-motorized day use visitors year-round and for all overnight visitors entering the BWCAW from October 1 – April 30. Self Issued permits are available from kiosks at BWCAW entry points and Forest Service offices (no reservation required and no recreation fees).

Walk-up permits may be obtained at any permit issuing station on the entry date or one day prior when available. Reservations are recommended. 

Learn more about reserving permits for a non-profit organization. BWCAW Permit Requirements 

BWCAW Wilderness Rules and Regulations 

Permit holders are responsible for understanding and following all BWCAW rules and regulations

Day Use Motor Permits and Overnight Motor Permits 

Fee Policy

Planning a trip to the BWCAW? Click on the Show Notification arrows at the top of the page and read the latest Alert regarding COVID-19.

Reservation Policy

Currently, 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. 

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


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

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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