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BWCA Wilderness Info

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness & Quetico Park Information - Trip Planning, Canoe Routes, Maps, Entry Points

BWCA Wilderness Introduction

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) spans over a million acres of glaciated bedrock, lush pine forests, and thousands of island-dotted pristine lakes just south of the Canadian border in Northeastern Minnesota. Extending nearly 150 miles along the International Boundary adjacent to Quetico Provincial Park, wilderness travelers find solitude, adventure, exceptional fishing, and a special connection with nature.


The hallmark of this region is a network of primarily small and medium size lakes and rivers connected by portage paths. Great glaciers left behind these lakes, and a rugged topography of exposed bedrock, granite cliffs, rocky shorelines and sand beaches.


The 1,200 miles of BWCAW canoe routes are historic travel ways of native peoples. You will step back in time traveling the historic routes of the native Sioux and Chippewa people, as well as early explorers, French Voyageurs, trappers, and prospectors. The BWCAW appears mostly untouched by human hands - there are no roads, signs, docks, cabins, or lodges. And motors are prohibited in the interior of the BWCAW.


The US Forest Service manages the BWCAW, and visitors must obtain an entry permit and follow certain rules and regulations.


Entry Permits

A quota entry permit is required for overnight trips in the BWCAW from May 1 through September 30. The quota system regulates how many groups can begin a trip at each entry point each day. There are over 70 entry points to the BWCAW.


Advance entry permit reservations are strongly recommended because there are a limited number of quota entry permits for each entry point. All quota entry permits for summer 2015 become available on a first-come, first-served basis on January 28, 2015.  There is also a very limited permit lottery system that only applies to certain entry points, and primarily relates to motorboat travel in limited areas. The lottery opens for applications on Dec. 16, 2014, and goes through January 13, 2015.  The lottery results are released on January 21. The lottery only includes the following entry points:  D (Fall Lake and Beyond - day use motor), 24 (Fall Lake - both overnight motor and paddle), 25 (Moose Lake - both overnight motor and paddle), F (Moose, Newfound, and Sucker - day use motor), and G (Basswood over Prairie Portage - day use motor).


Call us at 218-343-7951 for information on permit availability, and to reserve your entry permit. You can also check permit availability and reserve entry permits at www.recreation.gov.


Groups may only enter the BWCAW on the entry date and through the entry point specified on their entry permit. Permits may only be picked up the day before, or the day of, entry, by the trip leader or alternate trip leader designated on the reservation. Permits are not transferable.


Non-quota self-issued permits are free and required year-round for day use BWCAW visitors, and for all overnight visitors entering the BWCAW between October 1 and April 30.


Permit Fees

BWCAW user fees per person per trip:


  • Adult: $16
  • Youth (0-17): $8
  • Interagency Senior/Access Card Holders: $8
  • Youth Access Card Holders: $4


A non-refundable permit reservation fee of $6 is required for each permit reserved. At Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service, we do not charge any additional BWCAW permit reservation or issuing fees.


Rules and Regulations

To preserve the wilderness, visitors to the BWCAW must follow certain regulations. CLICK HERE to learn the details.


Keep in mind that cans and glass bottles are not allowed in the BWCAW. 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 original containers.


Also, the maximum group size is 9 people and four watercraft.



Planning Map

Use this map of the Boundary Waters (BWCAW) and Quetico Provincial Park to plan your canoe trip route. And please feel free to contact us. We're happy to help you select a route that fits your interests and abilities!


CLICK for a larger trip planning map of the BWCAW and Quetico areas!




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