Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Ely, MN 55731, USA

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, referred to as the BWCA or simply “the Boundary Waters,” draws canoeists from around the world—and for good reason. Located on the Minnesota–Canada border, the area encompasses more than 1 million acres in the northern section of the Superior National Forest and features over 1,100 lakes, 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 12 hiking trails, and thousands of campsites. The nature here is pristine yet rugged, with lakes cut from granite and surrounded by old pine growth. Since planes flying below 4,000 feet are prohibited in the BWCA, the area is also blissfully silent, offering a kind of solitude rarely found in the U.S.

The key to a successful Boundary Waters trip is to plan well and bring only what you can carry. From May 1 through September 30, visitors who wish to camp overnight or enter with motor-powered watercraft must have a permit, which can be obtained at a Forest Service issuing station or through an outfitter or guide. If you just want to go for the day or between October 1 and April 30, you’ll only need a self-issuing permit, which you can get through the mail or at some entry points themselves. Costs range from $16 for an adult to $4 for Youth Access Pass holders.

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