Permit Basics, Fees and Cancellations

Permit Basics

Permits are required year round for day and overnight travel throughout the BWCAW. A quota permit is required from May 1 through September 30 to take an overnight paddle, motor, or hiking trip. The quota system regulates how many groups may start their trip from each entry point each day. This type of permit is also required to travel by motor for a single day on specific lakes which allow motor use. Motor permits are regulated by a weekly quota system. To find available quota and to make a reservation, go to, search Boundary Waters and Wilderness Permits. The Trip Planning Guide has more information about making reservations, rules and regulations, etc.

For more specific information about entry points, fire impacts, Primitive Management Areas, and current conditions contact one of the Superior National Forest Offices:

Supervisor’s Office: 218-626-4300; Gunflint: 218-387-1750; Tofte: 218-663-8060; Kawishiwi: 218-365-7600; and LaCroix: 218-666-0020.

Non-Quota Self-issuing permits may be obtained for overnight travel between October 1 through April 30. These may also be used for non-motorized day use travel within the BWCAW as well as motorized travel into Little Vermilion Lake only between May 1 and September 30. These forms may be obtained at Forest Service Offices, and  BWCAW entry points. No reservations are necessary but make sure you fill out the entire permit and carry a copy of the permit with you at all times. The information below reviews fees and system basics in order to obtain a quota permit.

Permit Reservations

Reservation Fee 

A $6.00 non-refundable reservation fee is required for each quota permit, overnight and day-use motor, that is reserved.

Overnight User Fee Deposit

When making advanced reservations for Overnight Permits, at a minimum you must pay for 2 adult user fees. User fees will be charged based on the group size you specify. Example: If your group size is 5 adults and 2 youth, you will be charged for user fees of $96 at the time you make your reservation. When reserving, you have the option of paying for 2 adults and changing your group size at the time of permit issuance. Or, you may adjust your group size online and make payment up to 2-days prior to your entry date.

If cancelled outside the 2-day window, the card holder will be fully refunded. If cancelled within the 2-day window, 32.00 for 2 adults is retained and additional payments will be refunded. The Forest Service will retain the entire payment if the group is a no show. A new confirmation letter will be generated each time a change is made. Adjustments to group sizes will be made at the permit issuing station as needed.

Motor-powered Watercraft Regulations

 Motor-powered watercraft are permitted only on the following designated lakes. All other lakes or portions of lakes within the BWCAW are paddleonly. Motors may not be used or be in possession on any paddle-only lake. No other motorized or mechanized equipment (including pontoon boats, sailboats, sailboards) is allowed.
On these lakes, the possession of one additional motor no greater than 6 horsepower is permitted, as long as motors in use do not exceed 10 horsepower. 
Clearwater, North Fowl, South Fowl, Seagull (no motors west of Three Mile Island), Sections of Island River within the BWCAW.
On these lakes or portions of these lakes, the possession of one additional motor no greater than 10 horsepower is permitted, as long as motors in use do not exceed 25 horsepower:
Basswood (except that portion north of Jackfish Bay and Washington Island), Saganaga (except that portion west of American Point), Fall, Newton, Moose, Newfound, Sucker, Snowbank, East Bearskin, South Farm, Trout.
Little Vermilion, Loon, Lac La Croix (not beyond the south end of Snow Bay i8n the U.S.A.), Loon River.

User Fees

 User fees are required for all overnight visitors to the BWCAW between May 1 and September 30. This fee covers your entire stay under one permit.

Fees are as follows:

User Fees Per Person Per Trip

Adult - $16.00

Youth (0-17) - $8.00

Interagency Senior/Access Card Holder - $8.00

Youth (0-17) Access Card Holders - $4.00

BWCAW Seasonal Fee Cards

The purchase of a BWCAW Seasonal Fee Card fulfills the user fees required for the season, but it does not eliminate the need for obtaining a BWCAW wilderness travel permit. For reserved permits it does not eliminate the need to pay the $6.00 reservation fee and the user fee deposit. Seasonal Fee Cards may be purchased after May 1 from any Forest Service Permit Issuing Station.

Seasonal Fee Card Costs Per Person

Adult - $64.00

Youth (0-17) - $32.00

Interagency Senior/Access Card Holder - $32.00

Youth Access Card Holder - $16.00

Selecting a Permit Issuing Station

You may select any issuing station listed on the reservation website and in the Trip Planning Guide. Certain businesses and each of the Forest Service Stations may issue wilderness permits.

Picking up a Permit

Permits can only be picked up the day before or the day of entry specified on your permit. Please check with your desired permit pick-up location to confirm their office hours. Remember to bring a photo ID and your confirmation letter with when you pick up your permit. Upon pickup the issuing station will show a short user education video, review the rules and regulations, and go over any other necessary information.

Reserved Permits

All reserved permits must be picked up at the location specified when the reservation was made or at a Forest Service issuing station. Only the trip leader or alternate trip leaders specified when the reservation was made may pick up the permit. It is recommended that you list three alternates when you make your reservation – these cannot be added at a later date. The person that picks up the permit must be with the group for the duration of the trip. Any remaining overnight user fees (not covered by the $32.00 deposit), will be calculated when the permit is issued based on the group size upon arrival. The remaining fee will be collected at this time.

Non-Reserved Permits

Non-Reserved overnight permits may be picked up at any issuing station if the quota has not been met for the entry point you have selected. These must also be made/picked up the day before or on the day of entry.


Only Forest Service Offices may accept cash and credit card payments. All discount cards (Interagency Senior/Access, Treaty Card holders, and BWCAW Seasonal Fee cards) must be presented at the time of permit pickup to receive a discount, otherwise a full user fee will be charged. Non-Forest Service permit pick-up locations may charge up to a $2.00 fee to issue an overnight permit.


BWCAW Reservation Contacts


Phone (Toll-Free): (877) 444-6777