Boundary Waters closed for all until May 4

Preparing to start a Boundary Waters trip. (Superior National Forest photo)

The Superior National Forest announced today that the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is closed to visitors from now until May 4 as part of the coronavirus pandemic response. Anyone with a reservation through May 4 will receive a full refund.

The move is meant to help comply with Minnesota governor Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order which was extended on April 9. The order directs people in Minnesota to stay home except for essential needs. While outdoor recreation is an allowed activity, it should be conducted locally.

“Minnesotans are encouraged to stay close to home and are strongly discouraged from engaging in unnecessary travel,” the Minnesota Department of Health says.

That means the start of the annual permit quota season, when limited numbers of permits are available for overnight visits and some other uses, will be delayed from its usual beginning on May 1.

Changes to BWCA permit pick-up

Once the wilderness reopens and the permit season does start, the Forest Service is also changing how permits are issued to reduce the virus risk. Recreation.gov is currently taking permit reservations.

Visitors will no longer need to pick up their permit from the Forest Service or a cooperating business, such as an outfitter. Instead, visitors may simply print their BWCAW Reservation Confirmation Email and use it as their permit.

“Permit holders will be instructed to print one copy of the Reservation Confirmation Email for each watercraft in their group, and each watercraft should always carry a copy of the Reservation Confirmation Email with them while in the BWCAW,” the agency says.

Permit holders will also receive links to the three Leave No Trace educational videos visitors are supposed to watch before entering the wilderness. The series of three videos released last year include two that are intended to be watched at home, and one that was required viewing when picking up a permit.

National Forest ranger stations and other offices are currently closed to the public, only offering services via phone or online. Contact information (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday):

  • Forest Headquarters: (218) 343-8972
  • Gunflint Ranger Station: (218) 387-1750
  • LaCroix Ranger Station: (218) 666-0020
  • Kawishiwi Ranger Station: (218) 365-7600
  • Tofte Ranger Station: (218) 663-8060

For specific questions about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or the reservation system for Wilderness permits and campground reservations, call 218-626-4395 or email SM.FS.R9_SNF_BWCAW@usda.gov.

More information

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