Boundary Waters Canoe Trip Entry Permits & Permit Fees

The US Forest Service manages the BWCAW and requires all users be properly permitted  for entry into the Wilderness.

Quota Entry Permits Overview

A quota entry permit is required for overnight BWCAW camping trips that launch from May 1 through September 30. The quota system limits how many groups can begin a trip at each of about 70 entry points each day. The number of permits available for each entry point varies from only one permit every other day to more than a dozen permits per day. Most entry points have around five to seven entry permits available per day.

Advance entry permit reservations are strongly recommended because of the limited number of quota entry permits. Permits for summer 2023 will become available on a first-come, first-served basis starting on January 25, 2023 at 9am CST. The longer you wait to reserve your permit the more flexibility you may need to have for your preferred entry point and entry date.

How to Reserve a Quota Entry Permit

Reserve a BWCAW entry permit and see permit availability over a variety of entry dates and entry points at Recreation.gov. By request, Ely Outfitting Company can reserve your BWCAW entry permit. However, you may want to reserve your own permit when there is very limited permit availability and time is of the essence to reserve a permit before it is no longer available.

To Reserve Your BWCAW Entry Permit, You Must Know:

  1. Your preferred BWCAW entry date.
  2. Your preferred BWCAW entry point. For entry point and route ideas, complete a quick Trip Routing Form.
  3. Optionally, the names and email addresses of up to three alternate permit holders who could still use the permit if the permit holder (that’s you) is unable to do the trip.
  4. Optionally, several alternative entry days or entry points in case your preferred option is not available.

To Reserve Your BWCAW Entry Permit at Recreation.gov:

  1. Go to www.recreation.gov
  2. Log in using your username and password, or create a new account.
  3. Search and select: “Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness”
  4. Select your entry point and entry date from the grid. Double check the accuracy of your entry point and entry date since they can not be changed.
  5. When outfitting with Ely Outfitting Company, select our guide service (“Boundary Waters Guide Service”) as the issuing station so that we may conveniently issue your permit when you pick up your outfitting.
  6. Enter pertinent trip information and pay with a credit card.

Important Permit Rules and Info

  • You must enter the BWCAW on the entry date and entry point shown on your permit.
  • One entry permit is good for a maximum group size of up to nine people with up to four watercraft.
  • Your exit date and group size can be adjusted at any time until the permit is issued.
  • Your entry date, entry point, and permit holder name can not be changed after the permit is reserved. Alternate permit holders can not be added after a permit is reserved.
  • Only the permit holder or alternate permit holder(s) specified at the time of reservation can pick up the permit. Therefore, remember to list alternate permit holders for backup in case the permit holder can not go on the trip.
  • Permits must be picked up at the issuing station specified when the permit is reserved.
  • Permits must be picked up either on the entry date shown on the permit or one day earlier. You will carry the paper permit while on trail. When outfitting with Ely Outfitting Company, select our guide service (“Boundary Waters Guide Service”) as the issuing station. That allows us to conveniently issue your entry permit when you pick up your outfitting.
  • Visitors may only reserve one permit per day per permit holder. When a permit holder makes multiple reservations on the same entry date or has overlapping reservations, all but one permit will automatically be cancelled by the USFS, and the cancelled permits will be returned to the BWCAW quota inventory. Permit holders will not be notified prior to cancellation. 
  • A permit holder can only lead one group at a time and must stay with their group for the duration of the trip. 
  • No more than nine people or four watercraft can be gathered together in the BWCAW at any time. This applies everywhere, including on portages, on the water, and at campsites. This applies even if the group has multiple entry permits.

Quota Entry Permit Fees

BWCAW quota entry permit user fees per person per trip:

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

In addition, a nonrefundable USFS permit reservation fee of $6 per permit is required, and we charge a nonrefundable $10 permit acquisition fee for each permit we reserve.

Non-quota Self-issued Permits

Non-quota self-issued permits are free and required year-round for day use BWCAW visitors not camping in the Wilderness, and for all overnight visitors entering the BWCAW from October 1 through April 30. Non-quota self-issue permits are available at USFS Ranger Stations such as the Kawishiwi Ranger District office in Ely. They are also sometimes available in small cabinets at the actual entry points. It is best to obtain your non-quota self-issued permit before leaving town in case the supply at the entry point is out.