Around the Base – BWCA and Quetico Permits

Around the Base – BWCA and Quetico Permits

Canoe Trip Permits and Paperwork…..


Our fall travels found me in a Wyoming truck stop where I was drawn to the section where they sell signs with catchy little sayings on them.  You know, like “Retirement….Twice the husband and Half the pay.”  The one I related to was a grizzled old cowboy sitting in an outhouse holding a roll of toilet paper that said,” No job is complete until the paperwork is done!”  I am sure many of you have seen it, and many more can relate.  So, it is with canoe trips. Paperwork is required.  More specifically, BWCA and Quetico permits are required.   Since there are some changes to the permit system again this year, I thought I should take this opportunity to explain them.

bwca paperwork

Permit Paperwork

Now, before we wade into the esoteric details of a system that is already too complicated, do not roll your eyes in bureaucratic resignation.  Williams and Hall helps nearly all our guests obtain their BWCA and Quetico permits, so rest assured that we will help you sort out all related paperwork. And, as the cowboy says, the job will be complete.  Let’s look at the BWCAW, and then at Quetico Park.

BWCAW – January 29th for Permits

You will recall (actually, who can forget) that last year the BWCAW underwent a massive makeover to their permit system.  Over the course of this summer season, many of the remaining issues have been resolved, and we are expecting smooth sailing as we enter this year’s permit season.  Permits are available on a first come first served basis beginning January 29th.  Therefore, it is essential to have your 2020 trip reservation information to us well before that date so we can have your trip processed and ready to submit on the 29th.

Remember that you need names of all those on your trip, and a credit card to pay the camping fees.  You do not need to be perfect. You can make changes to your permit up until the permit is actually issued at our base.  Don’t wait on that last guy to commit, go ahead and make your reservation, and then change as required later.

QUETICO – Five Months to the Day for Permits

Quetico permits

The Canadian park has made a couple interesting, and helpful, changes for the upcoming season.  Currently, Parks Ontario, their reservation organization, asks for a $100.00 deposit for your trip.  This deposit is then applied to your daily camping fees when you are issued your permit.  New for 2020, you will now be required to prepay 100% of your camping fees.   This will be based on the number in your party.  So, if you say you have 4 people for 5 nights, that is what you must pay when we get your permit.

Now here is the thing. The Park does not want you to pay for more people than you are sure will be in the group.  Continuing with our example, let’s say 2 out of the 4 people are not sure if they can get the time off. So you then make your reservation for 2 people for 5 nights.  Later when the other 2 people commit, you can change your reservation.  Looking at this a different way, let’s say you can’t afford or just don’t want to pay all that money now.  Just reserve for 2 people (group leader and alternate), then change later.

This new change allows you to save time going through the Canadian Ranger Station.  It also allows you to be flexible with your deposit, changing as you resolve the details of your trip.  Remember, Quetico permits are issued 5 months to the day ahead of time, so plan to be to us well before the deadline.


Finally, let’s talk about when it is best to make that reservation.  We have talked above about permit deadlines on both sides of the border.  There is one additional consideration.  That is reserving your party’s space at the Williams and Hall Base.  Of course, there are many nights that we do not fill up.  However, as many of you have experienced there are many nights that we do fill up. Making an early reservation assures that you will not have to be concerned about the latter.  We highly encourage making that reservation and getting those BWCA and Quetico permits as early as possible to insure we give you the service you have come to expect.  We look forward to seeing you Up North.


Paddle On. Be Free.

For more information on BWCA Family Canoe Trips, click here, or call us at 218-365-5837