2020 Boundary Waters Permits

It is that time of year again. Yesterday was the official start of the Boundary Waters permit reservation season. This is the second year of the permit reservations taking place on a new system. So far it seems like the difficulties that happened last season have been fixed. You can go online and reserve your permit in just a few minutes, but if you are having issues we have compiled a how to guide for you to navigate the process.

Before continuing any further there are a few pieces of information that are good to understand before visiting the rec.gov website. To start with everyone who enters the BWCA needs a permit, however not all visitors need to reserve a permit. Any visitors that are staying overnight between May 1st and September 31st or using a motor (only allowed in a few areas) are subject to the quota system and thus need to reserve a permit. Day paddlers or those not going during the permit season can enter for free by simply filling out a self issue permit. Once you have reserved a permit you still need to physically pick-up your permit before entering the BWCA. Permits can be picked up at the Cooperator or Forest Service issuing station that you have selected. Permits must be picked up the day of or day before your trip by a group leader or previously selected Alternative group leaders. At this point in time your outfitter or issuing station will ensure that you understand all rules and regulations before issuing your permit.

If you had and issuing navigating the permit issuing process follow the directions below to reserve your own permit:

Step 1: Click on this link to get started.


Step 2:  You will first need to log into the system. If you already have an account click on the Log In link in the upper left. If you are a new user select Sign Up

Step 3: Follow the prompts and enter the needed info to get logged in

Step 4: Once logged in you will see a white box labeled Walk Me Through, click this box

Step 5: The next screen to pop up will say  “Which Permit do I need”. Select Let’s Begin

Step 6: Three separate pages will pop up to help you determine what kind of permit you will need. Answer each question and then select Next

Step 7: The next screen to pop up will say “finished” on top and then tell you which permit type you need. You are not yet finished reserving a permit, but you have determined which type of permit you need. Many people will see that they need an Overnight Paddle Permit. These permits work on a quota system so you will have to continue to verify that a permit is available for the entry date and location of your choice. It is not relevant at this point how many days you will stay in the wilderness as the quota is only for entry dates. Select Check Availability to continue.

Step 8: Underneath a wide orange line on the top of the screen you will see a box with a date in it. Change this date to the entry date you are planning to enter the Boundary Waters.

Step 9: Scroll down to until you find the entry point of your choice. These entry points are not arranged by Entry Point # or by alphabetic order, but rather by the Forest Service office that services the area. With any luck the permit date and location of your choice will be blue and show the number of remaining permits available (If not all available permits for that date and entry point have been booked). Hold the mouse over this blue box and verify that the correct date pops up. If so click on that box. The box should now show a check mark over the top of it.

(Note: If the entry point of your choosing is not available there are still plenty of options for great trips. Feel free to call us at (218) 663-7643 and we will be happy to talk through other trip options)

Step 10: Once you have checked the permit of your choice the box in the bottom right corner labeled with Book Now should be blue. In addition the date and entry point you selected should appear to the left of the box. If this info is correct then click Book Now

Step 11: The next page will say Select Permit Issuing Station. If you wish to pick your permit up at our shop type “Sawtooth Outfitters” into the box and click the circle to the left of our name.

Step 12: Click the blue Continue box on the right side of the screen.

Step 13: The next page will say “order details” on the top. Verify that the information under “Permit Holder” is correct.

Step 14: Continue down this page to answer all of the questions. Be sure to accurately answer all questions. As you select the number of people in your group add as much information as possible. As you add people to your group you will see a box labeled “Alternate Group Leader”. You are allowed to select up to three Alternate Leaders and we encourage you to do so. In the event that you are unable to attend the trip (sometime last minute issues like family emergencies change our plans) the permit can only be issues to someone labeled as an Alternate leader.

Step 15: Verify that “Cooperator or issuing stations” information if correct

Step 16: Read the information under “facility information”. Check the box Yes, I have read and agree to the Need to Know information

Step 17: Once you have checked this box you will be brought back to the top of the screen and see a blue box labeled Proceed to Checkout

Step 18: The next screen will be labeled “Shopping Cart”. Verify that this information is correct and then click the blue box Proceed to Payment

Step 19: The next screen will be labeled “Payment Info” Entered needed Credit Card information and select Next

Step 20: Continue to follow prompts to finish until payment is completed


If you have any issues with getting your permit you are welcome to call us, but you may be better of calling the Forest Service at (218) 663-7150

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