Summer BWCAW canoe camping trips still require quota entry permits, but the Forest Service has changed the way early planners apply for those permits.

For years, early planners applied for permits during a Dec. 1 to Jan. 15 “lottery” period. In the lottery, you selected a desired entry point and date. At the end of the lottery period, you received your desired permit, unless there were more applications for that day/entry point than available permits, and a random drawing selected the other applicants over you. In the event you didn’t obtain your first permit choice, then you would have the same chance to receive the second or third date/entry point preferences you made in your lottery application.

In reality, something over 95% of overnight paddle permit applicants in the lottery received their first permit choice.

What this change means for you: If you are planning a summer 2012 BWCA canoe trip, you want the best selection of summer camping entry permits, and you are an early planner, then you should apply for your entry permit when quota permits become available at 9 AM on January 25, 2012.

No worries, though, for folks who can’t plan that far ahead. Plenty of permits are still available through spring. However, for the best selection of permits for the entry point and date that best fits your interests, we suggest you reserve your permit as soon as you decide to take a Boundary Waters trip. At Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service, we’re happy to talk you through options and make some routing suggestions that are perfectly suited for your particular interests and expectations. We can also make your permit reservation for you. Feel free to call us at 218-343-7951.

We received the following official notice of the lottery changes by email from the USFS:

Jim Sanders, Forest Supervisor for the Superior National Forest has decided to implement changes to the lottery and reservation system for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).   

For 2012, the lottery will be retained for Fall Lake entry points D (Fall Lake & Beyond) and 24 (Fall Lake) and Moose Lake entry points F (Moose-Newfound-Sucker), G (Moose-Prairie-Basswood) and 25 (Moose Lake). People wanting day use motor, overnight motor, and overnight paddle permits for these entry points can continue to use the lottery to make their reservations as they have in the past. All other entry point reservations will be made on a first-come, first-served basis shortly after the lottery is run.  

Lottery applications can be made starting from 12:01 am CT on December 19, 2011 to 11:59 pm CT on January 19, 2012.  The lottery will run on January 20th.  Reservations for all entry points can be made on a first-come, first-served basis starting January 25th at 9:00 am central time.  Reservations can be made at or by calling 1-877-444-6777.