Boundary Waters and Voyageurs National Park closed to overnight visitors until May 17

A Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) sign along a portage trail to Bower Trout Lake near Lima Grade on the Gunflint Trail (Superior National Forest) in Northern Minnesota. (Photo by Tony Webster)

The Superior National Forest and National Park Service have announced that two popular destinations will remain closed to overnight use as part of the COVID-19 response. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park closures are meant to align with Minnesota governor Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order, which continues through May 18.

The BWCAW was previously closed to all use until May 4. It is now open for day use, but no overnight visits are allowed. Overnight permits reserved through May 17, 2020 will be fully refunded automatically.

“Continuing to restrict access to the Superior National Forest is a particularly difficult decision,” said Forest Supervisor Connie Cummins. “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.”

Additionally, all Superior National Forest campgrounds outside the wilderness are also closed, with bathrooms locked and trash pick-up suspended. All campfires are also banned to reduce the risk of wildfires that could put first responders at heightened risk of co

There is still a quota on motorized day-use permits for the BWCAW, but hiking and paddling day permits are unrestricted. Ranger stations remain closed to the public, though permits can be issued virtually and at some cooperating outfitters in person. Day-use permits can be acquired at entry points.

Allowing day-use visitors is intended to provide recreation for people who live in the local area.

Unnecessary travel from other parts of the state or country is not allowed under emergency restrictions. The emergency order issued by Gov. Walz and extended on May 1 states “All private and public campgrounds and dispersed camping sites must remain closed to recreational camping.”

Because travel across the international border with Canada is still limited, as well, shared portages along the boundary will not be open. These portages typically allow both Canadian and American visitors to travel between lakes without worrying about which side of the border they are on.

Quetico Provincial Park and other Ontario parks remain closed for all use until May 31.

Voyageurs National Park is also closed to overnight use, including both tent camping and houseboat mooring. The park’s visitor center in International Falls remains available by phone and email, but is closed to visitors and any non-official business.

The park has also announced that its tour boat on Rainy Lake and other boat tours will not be offered at all during 2020. The popular Kettle Falls Hotel and surrounding day use area is open for gas and portage services, but nothing else. The park expects services at the hotel to remain limited beyond the end of May.

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