BWCAW Quota Permits For 2024 Season Go On Sale January 31st–Here’s what you need to know

Canoeing on the glassy lake at sunrise is pure magic. The water is so still and the fog adds an eerie beauty to the landscape.

Quota permits for the BWCAW go on sale January 31st at 9 a.m. CST. The quota season for the BWCAW is May 1 through September 30. All parties entering the BWCAW for overnight adventures during that time must have a quota permit. 

The permits are sold online at or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Your outfitter may be able to get a quota permit for you. Check with them when you make your reservation.

The staff here at Rockwood will be securing quota permits for a number of the adventurers we are outfitting this season. Let us know what your plans are. 

Owners Mike Seim and Carl Madsen are all set to get online on the 31st. They divide up the list of customers needing permits, have laptops and cell phones to hand, and begin buying the permits, one at a time, when the clock strikes 0900.   

Seim clarified that outfitters get no special consideration from the reservation system. They buy individual permits for each group on their list, just like you’d do for your own group. 

“Once we confirm a permit for a customer, we move on to the next,” Seim said. “A few minutes later, as we’re permitting the next customer, our phones start ringing with calls to book lodging and equipment. It would be great if they’d email us that morning instead of calling, but we’re here for them either way.”

People entering the Boundary Waters need to have a permit for day trips and overnight trips made from November through April. Those permit applications are available for self completion at the entry points.

Seim pointed out that the quota system, which limits the number of groups entering at each entry point,  disperses groups to make sure sufficient campsites are available during the busy summer months. Without a quota system, too many visitors would enter the BWCAW at the same locations on a given day, adding to campsite congestion and eventually causing physical damage to the wilderness.

The Lizz Lake entry point, a short paddle from Rockwood and a short portage from Poplar Lake, is limited to three groups entering per day. The average stay in the BWCAW is four days. The algorithms used by the USFS make sure that there are enough official campsites nearby for each group entering on a given day.

If the Lizz Lake entry is booked, Meeds Lake, which requires a longer portage from Poplar, is an option. Meeds allows two entries per day. 

So don’t despair if your first choice of entry point and route is booked. There are solid alternatives. 

Here’s what you need to be thinking about before you go online or on the phone to book a quota permit for you and your group:

  • Decide the length of your trip. How many nights will you be in the wilderness?
  • How many people are going with you?
  • How difficult will your adventure be? A half day paddle to a base camp and paddling around for fishing or photography? A leisurely circuit of one or two lakes per day? A back busting, lengthy long distance trip? You know your interest and ability level, also think about each member of your party.
  • Determine your preferred entry point and calculate your route and have one or two alternate routes for permitting day. The USFS recommends you have at least three alternate options for entry point and date in mind when you go online or call. The USFS has a planning guide that is a great resource to help you with this.  
  • Prime days will be reserved early. Those reservations are sometimes canceled and returned to the system. If you can be flexible with your schedule, and your preferred days aren’t available now,  you may want to return to the website in March or April to see if there are cancellations that open up for you and your party.
  • To make sure everyone who wants to enter the BWCAW may do so, please only reserve a permit that you intend to use.
  • A group leader can only lead one trip at a time. If you make more than one reservation in your name on the same entry date, or make overlapping reservations, the USFS will cancel all but one reservation without notice.

Permit holders are responsible for sharing the Leave No Trace Video series with the entire group prior to arrival at the entry point.

Good luck getting the quota permit that’s right for you. And as always, we are here to answer questions and help you get into the wilderness safely. Give Mike or Carl a call at 218-388-2242 or email us at