Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness
Successful trips don't just happen. Plan ahead for your next BWCAW trip!
Leave No Trace in a Place Worth Preserving
During covid19, we saw unprecedented visitation to the BWCA Wilderness, and along with that, an unacceptably high amount of resource damage, including cutting of live trees, human waste not being properly disposed, trash left in campfire rings, illegal entry, food not properly stored, disruptive and oversized groups, lack of BWCAW permits, improper food storage, and campfires left unattended.
Leave No Trace Education
To ensure visitors understand and follow BWCAW Regulations and Rules and Leave No Trace principles, all permit holders are required to watch three Leave No Trace education videos prior to their trip:
Step 1: Watch Parts 1 & 2 of the BWCAW Leave No Trace video series with your group before departing for your trip.
Step 2: Watch the third video and review the BWCAW Regulations and Rules with your cooperator or Forest Service staff when picking up your permit at the issue station.
After viewing the videos, you will understand how to make a difference in the long-term health of the BWCAW by engaging in responsible recreation practices. It takes a commitment from everyone visiting these treasured lands to ensure that the lakes, waterways and forests of the BWCAW are protected against both physical and social resource damage, so wilderness character is preserved for future generations under the law.
TIP: Before reserving your permit, please review the permit issue station locations and hours of operations by clicking on the arrow next to the Issuer listed under the Cooperators tab on Recreation.gov. Be sure to select an issue station near your entry point, the BWCA Wilderness is over one million acres in size. Once you have placed your permit with a BWCAW cooperator, the issue station cannot be changed. Reserved permits must be picked up at the issue station specified on the permit.
Winter Camping in the BWCAW
- Review the BWCAW Trip Planning Guide (p. 11) for winter safety and best practices
- Leave No Trace Principles for Winter Recreation
A permit is always required to enter the BWCA Wilderness:
- Visitors taking an overnight trip (paddle, motor, or hiking) or a motorized day trip into the BWCAW from May 1 – September 30 are required to obtain a quota permit. For information about reserving quota permits, please visit recreation.gov.
- For information on reserving quota permits for a non-profit organization, click here.
- Walk-up permits may be obtained at any open permit issue station on the entry date or one day prior when available, however, reservations are recommended since there are a limited number of quota permits 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).
- For the most current, comprehensive information on planning a trip to the BWCAW, please review the BWCAW Trip Planning Guide and BWCAW Regulations and Rules.
Recreation Alternatives on the Superior National Forest
Would camping in areas of the Forest adjacent to the BWCAW better suit the needs of your group?
There are 254 backcountry campsites outside the wilderness that offer remote paddling, camping and fishing. Here you can experience solitude without reservations, fees or permits and still have a fire grate and latrine. Many backcountry campsites are located on canoe routes outside the BWCAW including Island River, Timber-Frear and Twin Lakes.
The Superior National Forest also offers 23 developed campgrounds and 18 rustic campgrounds. Rustic campgrounds are free of charge and available first come, first served year-round. Fee campgrounds are open May – September and may be reserved at Recreation.gov. See the Forest Camping Guide and the Forest website for more information.
The US-Canada Border has been closed to non-essential travel (recreation, tourism and entertainment) since March 2020 due to the global pandemic. Please visit the links below for the most up to date information:
- BWCAW Research, Articles, & Publications
- BWCAW Regulations & Rules
- Mapping Wilderness Character in the BWCAW
- Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness – A Long History of Management Guided by Science
- Wilderness Act
- Learn more about the BWCAW
- What to Know Before You Go
- The BWCAW: Examining Changes in Use, Users, Management Challenges
- Wilderness Education Kit
- Entry Point Map
Alerts & Warnings
- Flooding impacts BWCAW, Roads and Recreation Across Forest; ATV Trails Closed
- Greenwood Closure Area Updated May 10, 2022
- Closure: Some Trails End Campsites and Nearby Rec Areas
- Border Route Trail Tornado and Current Conditions
- Spring road wt restrictions: St Louis, Lake, Cook County, see Current Conditions
- Sturgeon River Trail Partial Closure