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Permits for BWCAW available online Wednesday

The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the popular wilderness area, will keep the same limit on the number of permits issued at levels set in 2022.

ELY, Minn. — Popularity can be a mixed bag. Most everyone loves to "feel" the love, but sometimes it can get to be too much. 

Take the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), the haven for paddlers and campers nestled in far northeastern Minnesota. Visitor permits for the 2023 season are available beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday and there is sure to be an online crush by those wanting to get away from it all.  

Anyone embarking on an overnight paddle, motor or hiking trip between May 1 and Sept. 30 is required to obtain a quota permit by logging on to recreation.gov. Walk-up permits may be available at BWCAW permit-issuing stations on the desired entry date or one day before, but reservations are recommended since permits are limited and in high demand. 

Permits allow a group of 9 people and four watercraft to enter the wilderness area. There is a fee of $16 for each adult and $8 for those under the age of 17, and those applying have to make a minimum deposit (the equivalent of 2 adult recreation fees) of $32. 

There is no limit on permits for those who want to visit the BWCAW between October and the end of April. 

The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the BWCAW, is keeping permits at the reduced level set in 2022 for the prime season that runs from May and September. The decision dropped available permits by 5,700 in an attempt to reduce damage caused by a swell of visitors during the COVID pandemic. 

Wilderness officials say with all those people came a high amount of resource damage including "cutting of live trees, human waste not being properly disposed, trash left in campfire rings, illegal entry, disruptive and oversized groups, lack of BWCA permits, improper food storage and campfires left unattended."

Stretching out over 1,098,000 acres and extending nearly 150 miles along the International Boundary adjacent to Canada’s Quetico and La Verendrye Provincial Parks, the BWCAW is bordered on the west by Voyageurs National Park with Grand Portage Monument to the east. The paddler's paradise contains over 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 12 hiking trails and over 2,000 designated campsites.  

For help planning a BWCAW trip, click here. 

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