Welcome to the Boundary Waters
Canoe Area Wilderness! To preserve the values of this great wilderness,
certain rules must be followed. Remember, BWCA Permits are required all year.
The BWCA Reservation Web site
has real-time permit availability, below is an external link to the National
Recreation Reservation Service.
order a permit for entry dates from May 1 through September 30 use an
outfitter or order your own permit on the
BWCA Reservations Web site.
You do not need to pay for a permit for dates not within this range. You only
need to complete a free self-issue permit, pick one up from any
How much is
a permit for the BWCA?
- A nonrefundable reservation fee of $6.00 is
charged for each permit issued. There is a maximum of 9 persons / 4 canoes
allowed on a permit traveling and camping together. There is a user fee of
$16.00 (adult) and $8.00 (child 17 and under) per visit. The deposit paid
for all groups will be $38.00 regardless of group size. Any adjustments for
more or less will be initiated at the time the permit is picked up.
More about fees.
Self-Issued Permits (Entry dates from October 1 through April 30 ONLY)
- The self-issuing permits are valid
during the summer for non-motorized day use, and for any day use from Crane Lake to Lake
- Self-issuing permits are available at
any Forest Service office and at BWCA entry points.
- The summer quota permit system has not
changed. Reservations are still made through the BWCA Reservation System.
- In accepting a permit you,
as party leader, agree to be responsible for any violation of the following:
- The following are enforceable
Forest Service regulations (maximum penalty of $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail).
- You must enter the BWCA
at the entry point and on the entry date shown on your permit.
- You may not re-enter on a
different date using the same permit.
- Permit stubs become
invalid when the group leader exits the wilderness.
- Nine (9) people and four
(4) watercraft are the maximum allowed together in the wilderness.
- You may not exceed the
limit at any time or anywhere (on water, portages, campsites) in the BWCA.
- Smaller groups increase
your wilderness experience and decrease the impacts.
Toilet Facilities & Water
- Use latrines at designated
- Latrines are not garbage
cans and should be used for the intended purpose only. Personal waste items
such as cigarettes, cotton swabs, or plastic feminine products should always
be packed out and should never go into the latrines.
- If you're not near a
latrine, dig a small hole 6 to 8 inches deep at least 150-200 feet or more
back from the water's edge. When finished, fill hole and cover with needles
- Bathe and wash dishes at
least 150-200 feet from lakes and streams.
- All soaps pollute water
including soaps labeled "biodegradable."
- Use filtration or water
purifiers for consuming water that is not boiled. Collect water away from
streams, rivers, creeks, etc. to reduce collecting debris in your filtering
- Cans and glass bottles are
- Containers of fuel, insect
repellent, medicines, personal toilet articles, and other items that are not
foods or beverages, are the only cans and bottles you may keep in their
- Food may be packaged in
plastic containers that must be packed out with you.
Food and Fish Remains
- Try to plan your meals so
you don't have leftovers. If you do, pack them out.
- Dispose of fish remains by
traveling well away from campsites, trails, portages and shorelines.
- Fires are allowed within
the steel fire grates at designated campsites or as specifically approved on
your visitor’s permit.
- Bringing a small camp
stove may be a better idea because it heats food more quickly, has less impact
than a fire, and comes in handy during rainy weather.
- Due to the potential fire
danger, fire restrictions may be put into effect. Check on current conditions
just prior to your trip. You may be required to use a camp stove if there is a
- If you build a fire, burn
only small diameter dead wood found lying on the ground. Do not burn trash.
- Collect firewood away from
campsites by paddling down the shore and walking into the woods where it is
- Wood easily broken by hand
or cut with a small folding saw eliminates the need for an axe.
- Drown your fire with water
any time you are going to be away from your camp or at bedtime. Stir the ashes
until they are cold to the touch with a bare hand.
- Transporting wood from out
of state is prohibited.
- All members of a permit
group must camp together.
- Camp only at Forest
Service designated campsites that have steel fire grates and wilderness
- Make camp early in the day
to ensure finding an available campsite.
- It is illegal to cut live
vegetation for any reason.
- You may camp up to
fourteen (14) consecutive days on a specific site.
- Only watercraft and
equipment used in connection with your current visit may be stored and left
- All equipment and personal
property must be carried out with you at the end of each trip.
- Watercraft must have
current registration in Minnesota or your home state, province, etc.
- Leave archaeological,
historical, and rock painting sites undisturbed.
- Do not touch
- The use of metal detectors
Firearms, Fireworks and
- Firearms are not illegal
if you can legally possess a firearm. Discharging a firearm is
prohibited within 150 yards of a campsite, or occupied area, or in any manner
or location that places people or property at risk of injury.
- Minnesota and Federal game
laws apply in the BWCA.
- Fireworks of any kind are
illegal. Please leave fireworks at home. No one wants to be blamed for a large
- Stay out of Canada with
- Instead of leaving your
cigarette butts lay around, please burn or pack out.
- Hunting and trapping in
the BWCA is not illegal.
- Dogs impact wildlife and
barking intrudes on the experience of others. Pets must be under control at
- Dispose of fecal matter
150 feet from water sources, campsites, and portages, or deposit it in a
- Leaving your pets
unattended or tied up unattended in the wilderness is very unwise. Predators
like wolves and bears may prey on these easy targets.
- Motor-powered watercraft
are permitted only on the following designated lakes. All other lakes or
portions of lakes within the BWCA are paddle only. 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.
Lakes With 10 Horsepower
- 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 generally west of Three Mile Island), sections of
Island River within the BWCA.
Lakes With 25 Horsepower
- 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.
Lakes With No Horsepower
- Little Vermilion, Loon, Lac
La Croix (not beyond the south end of Snow Bay in the U.S.A.), Loon River.
- Sea Gull lake - outside
- International water
systems shared by U.S and Canada, (e.g. Granite River) outside of the BWCA
and Quetico Park have no motor restrictions.
- Mechanical assistance is only
permitted over the following: International Boundary, Four-Mile Portage,
Fall-Newton-Pipestone and Back Bay Portages into Basswood Lake, Prairie Portage,
Vermilion-Trout Lake Portage.
- A group must have an official
tax-exempt status to qualify as a non-profit organization. If your permit
reservation is audited, your group must be able to produce a tax-exempt number.
All the people on the trip, with the exception of a guide, must be associated
with the non-profit organization. Non-profit organizations may reserve as many
permits as they like. However, there is a limit of no more than three (3)
permits within a permit season to be reserved under the name of any one
non-profit organization name as the Organization name associated with the
Permit. Additional permits can only be reserved under a specific person's name
as group leader with no association to the Non-profit organization.
- The only benefit to reserving
a permit having an association to a non-profit organization's name is that the
permit may then be issued to anyone who can prove affiliation with the
organization in the same location. For example, if a permit is reserved with an
association to Non-profit organization "Girl Scouts, Troop 16, Chicago" then
anyone affiliated with that particular organization may have the permit issued
to her/him. When reserving a permit associated with a non-profit organization,
the non-profit organization's name, address and a contact person for the
organization is required. The Customer profile must be under the contact
person’s name and the organization under profile must be set to the Non-profit
Organization. The representative of the non-profit organization that actually
picks up the permit becomes the group leader, must remain with the group for the
duration of the trip, and will be responsible to see that the group follows
BWCA regulations. Please contact the Forest Service office nearest your planned
entry point for additional information about reserving permits planning for