View Map

Overview

Even though it’s the most heavily used wilderness area in the nation, getting away from it all is easy at Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota, the wilderness extends along almost 150 miles of the international boundary of Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park. Set aside in 1926 to preserve its pristine beauty, Boundary Waters was made part of the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) in 1964, allowing visitors to canoe, camp and portage much as the French Voyageurs did more than three centuries ago. Forested with old growth white and red ...

Even though it’s the most heavily used wilderness area in the nation, getting away from it all is easy at Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota, the wilderness extends along almost 150 miles of the international boundary of Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park. Set aside in 1926 to preserve its pristine beauty, Boundary Waters was made part of the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) in 1964, allowing visitors to canoe, camp and portage much as the French Voyageurs did more than three centuries ago. Forested with old growth white and red pine forests, the area’s lakes and rivers remain much as they have been since the end of the last ice age. The 1.2 million-acre BWCAW is the largest and only federal wilderness of substantial size in the United States that is north of the Everglades and east of the Rockies.

The easiest way to experience the area is by hiring a guide or becoming part of a commercial tour organized by an outfitter. Adventurers who prefer the do-it-yourself method must be sure to acquaint themselves with the “Trip Planning Guide,” published by the USDA – Forest Service, and available at Forest Service offices. The guide not only lists more than 110 outfitters, it explains what permits are necessary and spells out rules of conduct which must be obeyed. People who don’t take rules seriously shouldn’t even consider a Boundary Waters experience as rule infractions result in stiff penalties.

Although it represents less than one percent of the National Wilderness Preservation System, BWCAW receives ten percent of NWPS use, with approximately 250,000 visitors annually. However, with more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes, the area is uncrowded most of the time. To insure against overcrowding, a limited number of quota permits (required for groups taking overnight paddle, motor or hiking trips or motorized day trips) are issued. When more than the maximum number of people request permits, lotteries are conducted.

Connie Emerson
About the Expert

Connie Emerson is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Cheapskate's Guide to Branson, Missouri and Eyewitness Top Ten Travel Guide – Las Vegas.

view full overview

Connie Emerson for Triporati

Must See, Do

Save It for Next Time

info

If time is short, save these attractions for a second visit.

Compare Flight, Car Rental, and Hotel Rates

Note: A new window will open for each site you select.

Note: A new window will open for each site you select.

Note: A new window will open for each site you select.

Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    April through September