Permits are required to enter the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. One permit is required per group, with a maximum group size of 9 people and 4 watercraft.
Overnight Paddle Permits
If you plan to camp overnight in the Wilderness, you will need an Overnight Paddle permit. These permits are available on a limited quota system, only allowing a certain number of groups to enter at each designated entry point per day. This quota is different for all entry points. For example, Sawbill Lake allows 14 groups per day. It is a good idea to reserve a permit as soon as your plans are firm.
While you are required to enter on the specified day and location listed on your permit, you are allowed to stay as long as you’d like and travel anywhere in the Wilderness. A permit is only required for the entry date, not each day that you are in the Wilderness.
You can apply for permits online at recreation.gov (search “Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Reservations”) or by phone (1-877-444-6777, toll free). Most entry points and dates are available on relatively short notice. You can check permit availability online any time. If you’d like to pick your permit up here at Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, select us in the “issuing station” drop down menu: Cooperator Sawbill Canoe Outfitters. The default is the Tofte Ranger Station.
We put together this video that walks you through the process of reserving a permit.
If you prefer, we are happy to reserve a permit for you on your behalf. Give us a call at (218) 663-7150 and we can discuss options and determine availability.
There is a $6 non-refundable fee for reserving a permit, charged by the Forest Service, and a user fee of $16 per adult per trip. Youth, 17 years and under, are $8 per person per trip. Golden Access and Golden Age card holders are also $8 per adult per trip. Golden cards are available to disabled and senior citizens at any Forest Service office. When reserving a permit, make your best guess as to the number of people in your group. Changes in group size can be made when the permit is picked up. Additional charges or refunds will be charged then at the time the permit is picked up.
Day Use Permits
If you plan to visit the Wilderness simply for day trips (no overnight camping) your group is still required to carry a permit with you. These permits are free and unlimited. They can be self-issued at any entry point. We also have copies in our store. The Wilderness rules still apply: group size is a maximum of 9 people and 4 watercraft, and no cans or glass bottles are allowed.