REGIONAL— There may be nearly three feet of snow on the ground in North Country, but it’s not too early to start thinking about warmer weather and a visit to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Reservations for entry permits into the 1.1 million-acre wilderness can be made beginning at 9 a.m. central time on Wednesday, Jan. 29. Reservations for trips between May 1 through September 30 can be booked using Recreation.gov, the online reservation and trip planning service for all federal recreation opportunities, or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
All reservations will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis— and that includes the limited number of motor permits available for travel to several BWCAW lakes. In the past, the intensely-sought motor permits were issued through a lottery system, but the U.S. Forest Service discontinued that system last year. That decision upset many Ely area outfitters, who contend the change has reduced their ability to obtain motor permits for their potential clients.
The issue proved contentious one year ago and it sparked legislation by Eighth District Rep. Pete Stauber, intended to restore the lottery system. That legislation never advanced in Congress, however, and the Forest Service has opted not to reinstate the lottery. Ely area outfitter Jason Zabokrtysky said he’s heard little or nothing about the issue in recent months.
The BWCAW is a unique area located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest, containing over 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 12 hiking trails and over 2,000 designated campsites. Visitors taking an overnight paddle, motor or hiking trip, or a motorized day trip into the BWCAW between May 1 and Sept. 30 are required to obtain a quota permit. Group sizes are limited to nine people and these smaller group sizes enhance the wilderness experience, increase chances of seeing wildlife, and decrease resource impacts.
Here are a few tips to assist those interested in reserving these popular permits:
Visitors are encouraged to have at least three travel options (dates and entry points) in mind and to ensure they have a current Recreation.gov account before reserving a permit.
The reservation system allows visitors to immediately see how many permit reservations are available at each BWCAW entry point.
Streamline your permit reservation and prevent delays at pick-up by adding all group members to your permit. Although group members may be changed using the “My Reservations” link in Recreation.gov after the permit reservation is created, only the group leader and alternate group leaders specified at the time of reservation can pick up the permit.
Prior to making reservations, carefully review all information in the “Need to Know” section of the BWCAW Permit on Recreation.gov. The permit holder and all group members must comply with all BWCAW rules and regulations. Permit reservations may be canceled for a full or partial refund, minus the six-dollar non-refundable reservation fee. Canceling your reservation allows others the opportunity to visit the BWCAW.
The Forest Service encourages visitors to explore their wilderness area and to remember that a permit is required year-round to enter the BWCAW. Self-issued permits are required for non-motorized day use visitors year-round and for all overnight visitors entering the BWCAW from Oct. 1 through April 30.