The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

  A canoe landed on a bank

The glaciers left behind rugged cliffs and crags, canyons, gentle hills, towering rock formations, rocky shores, sandy beaches and several thousand lakes and streams, interspersed with islands and surrounded by forest. The BWCAW is a unique area located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. Over 1 million acres in size, it extends nearly 150 miles along the International Boundary adjacent to Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park and is bordered on the west by Voyageurs National Park. The BWCAW contains over 1200 miles of canoe routes, 12 hiking trails and over 2000 designated campsites. Wilderness offers freedom to those who wish to pursue an experience of expansive solitude, challenge and personal integration with nature. Because this area was set aside in 1926 to preserve its primitive character and made a part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964, it allows visitors to canoe, portage and camp in the spirit of the French Voyageurs of 200 years ago.

Planning Your Trip

You must have a quota permit to enter the BWCAW for overnight trips during the quota season:  May 1 - September 30.  

Reservations for 2016 quota permits for all entry points can be made on a first-come, first-served basis beginning January 27, 2016, 9 a.m. Central Time.

Overnight users in the non-quota season, October 1 - April 30, and day users all year need a self issued permit which is available with no reservation and no charge at most entry points and at Superior National Forest offices.


A lottery is held for certain high demand motor entry permits.

The BWCAW lottery application period typically begins mid December and ends in mid January. The lottery is for the following entry points and dates: Fall Lake entry points D (Fall Lake and beyond) and 24 (Fall Lake); Moose Lake entry points F (Moose-Newfound-Sucker), G (Moose-Prairie-Basswood) and 25 (Moose Lake) for dates between May 1 and September 30. Lottery results are available on or around January 20. The BWCAW permit reservation system opens for all applicants by the end of January.

Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness Trip Planning Guide 

Permit Basics, Fees and Cancellations

A canoe on a lake at sunset



In their own words, youth share why the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and all Wilderness is Totally Worth It... to visit and enjoy anytime of the year. Video of children speaking about wilderness values

Wilderness 50th logo wolf silouetteIn 2014 we celebrated 50 years of protecting and enjoying Congressionally-designated wilderness on the Superior National Forest and across America.  Learn more...

 The Forest Service publication, "Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: Examining Changes in Use, Users, and Management Challenges” was a study to determine trends in use and user characteristics at the BWCAW, based on data from 1969, 1991, and 2007.  These findings may need further investigation and future management action to provide opportunities for meaningful wilderness experiences while protecting wilderness character.  This publication was an initial step towards researching and validating our BWCAW Travel Model study.

The BWCAW: Examining Changes in Use, Users, Management Challenges

Click here for information about the effects of Pagami Creek Fire  

Your BWCAW Adventure Starts Here...

Wilderness Volunteers - Give Something Back

Travel from the US to Canada- Link to Citizenship and Immigration

Travel from Canada- Link to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Link to information on a Remote Area Border Crossing Permit (RABC)

Historical and Educational Resources:

Wilderness Education Kit


The 10 Year Wilderness Challenge 

 Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: