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Boundary Waters Canoe Area reopens for day use

Several permit stations will be virtual-only, and overnight stays remain temporarily off-limits.
Credit: KARE
Boundary Waters

DULUTH, Minn. — A crown jewel of the Minnesota wilderness is ready for daytime visitors to return this week.

The U.S. Forest Service has announced the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in the Superior National Forest will reopen for day use starting Tuesday, May 5. Overnight use of the BWCAW will remain off-limits through at least May 17, in line with the Stay at Home order extension issued by Gov. Tim Walz.

The Forest Service said it will issue full refunds for people who made overnight reservations through May 17, 2020.

The day use reopening is largely intended for people who already live close to the northeastern Minnesota wilderness area.

"This change in the status of the BWCAW aligns with the Governor's request that people recreate close to home and avoid engaging in unnecessary travel," the Forest Service statement reads. "By allowing only day-use of the BWCAW, the Superior National Forest is providing some additional opportunities for local recreation and businesses."

"Continuing to restrict access to the Superior National Forest is a particularly difficult decision" Forest Supervisor Connie Cummins said in a statement.  "I want people to enjoy their public land and know that re-opening the BWCAW for day-use is a step in that direction. I’m looking forward to the day when we can safely re-open sites for overnight use.”

The Superior National Forest is also making temporary changes to the permit pick-up process. Some permit locations will only issue virtual day use permits, with visitors using their confirmation email as proof of permit. Other areas will issue in-person permits with social distancing. A full breakdown of the guidelines at specific BWCAW permit issuing stations can be found on the U.S. Forest Service website.

Most campgrounds and other recreation sites inside the Superior National Forest remain closed.

Campfires are also temporarily banned in the Superior National Forest, to minimize risk for first responders in the event of a wildfire. Gas stoves and gas grills are allowed under the restrictions.

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