Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness

Wilderness like moose, wolves and beavers live in the BWCAW

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Quota Permit Reservations Available January 27, 2021 | Learn More

Your Adventure Starts Here

The glaciers left behind rugged cliffs and crags, canyons, gentle hills, towering rock formations, rocky shores, sandy beaches and thousands of lakes and streams, interspersed with islands and surrounded by forest. This unique area is located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota.

  • Over 1 million acres in size
  • Nearly 150 miles along the International Boundary
  • Over 1200 miles of canoe routes
  • 12 hiking trails
  • Over 2000 designated campsites

Plan Your Adventure

Cover of the Planning Guide for BWCAW TripsBWCAW Trip Planning Guide - Planning to visit the BWCAW?  This is your ‘one stop’ for everything you need to know.

Wilderness Volunteers - Contact Northwoods Volunteer Connection  |  Volunteer Manual




Wilderness permits are required year-round to enter the BWCAW for day use and for overnight travel. See the BWCAW Trip Planning Guide for more details about permits.

Quota permits are required to enter the BWCAW for overnight trips during the quota season, May 1 - September 30. Quota permits are available for a fee, on a first-come, first-served basis at any wilderness permitting-office and may be reserved, for an additional reservation fee, through  See the BWCAW Trip Planning Guide for more details and to determine which type of permit is appropriate for your trip.

Permits for all entry points are available on the last Wednesday of January at 9:00 a.m. CT. Click here to learn more about making a BWCAW permit reservation.

Reserving BWCAW Permits for a Non-Profit Organization 

A non-profit organization (NPO) may reserve a limited number of permits under the organization’s name, allowing any member of the organization to become the Group Leader at the time of permit pickup. A maximum of three reservations are allowed under the organization’s name per season. An NPO using this option must be prepared to show evidence of legal non-profit status when picking up the permit. 

BWCAW permit information phone line:  218-626-4395

Permit Issue Stations: Open, Closed, or Virtual during COVID-19

In alignment with current federal, state and local guidance for social distancing and to ensure health safety of its employees, visitors and volunteers, BWCAW issue stations will be:

  • Virtual Only – Use Confirmation Email as Permit
  • Issuing Permits In-Person with Social Distancing
  • Closed for the Season

Check issue stations here.

Leave No Trace Video

Watch and share the BWCAW Leave No Trace User Education Video series with your group before you depart! Parts 1 & 2 include important trip planning information and should be viewed ahead of time. Part 3 will be shown when you pick up your permit. After viewing the videos, you will understand how to make a difference in the longterm health of the BWCAW by engaging in responsible recreation practices. This is an essential education tool in protecting the fragile wilderness ecosystem and providing a quality recreation experience for current and future generations. The BWCAW Leave No Trace User Education Video series may be accessed online at:

International Travel

Traveling from the US to Canada

Traveling from Canada to US

Information on a Remote Area Border Crossing Permit

Click here for a list of Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness research articles and publications.

40 Years of Protection, Preservation, and Enhancement

In 2018 we cebrated and reflected on the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act which amended the national Wilderness Act of 1964 to provide management guidance specific to the BWCAW. The main purpose of the law is to protect, preserve, and enhance the lakes, waterways and forested areas of the BWCAW to enhance public enjoyment of the unique landscape and wildlife. This year, we will remember the events leading up to the Act as well as what has happened the past 40 years since the Act was implemented. 


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.