Purchasing Permits

Obtaining Your Boundary Waters Permits and Quetico Permits


Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness permits and Quetico permits for entry into both canoe wildernesses are controlled by a permit system, and only a limited number of permits are issued for each day at each entry point. They are issued on a first-come-first-served basis. Therefore it is VERY important that you select your trip dates as early as possible. This will allow you to get a permit and guarantee your groups' entry into the wilderness. Our season, here in Ely, Minnesota, runs from Ice Out (or May 1st whichever is later) until the third Saturday in September.

Obtaining the Right BWCA Permits and Quetico Permits are Key to Your Trip

People come to the wilderness for many reasons; solitude, exercise, fishing, to see wildlife, adventure, etc. It is important for our staff at Williams and Hall to understand what you want from your wilderness experience. This will allow us to better recommend the BWCA permits that will best suit your needs.

It is very important to understand that all entry points are not created equal, and a great deal of your success will rest upon which permit you obtain. We spend a lot of time with our guests talking about their trip objectives and offering suggestions on appropriate entry points.

For those who may already be familiar with some of the U.S. and Canadian entry points, see our see some entry point travel suggestions here.


Most importantly, we will make all necessary arrangements for you and steer you confidently through this rather involved process...

Camping Permits/Fees [both U.S. and Canadian Trips]: Camping permits, which control your entry date and location must be reserved for your party. One permit is required for each 9 campers. Make your reservation as soon as you have firm trip dates!  Ideally, you should contact us in November or December. We will make all necessary arrangements for your permits with the U.S. or Canadian officials as soon as your reservation is received. A permit will cost $6.00 (This is a reservation fee charged by the USFS). For U.S. trips, you will also be required to pay a USFS User Fee of $16.00 per adult and $8.00 per youth per trip at the time you reserve your permit.

Canadian Trips/Fees [Canadian trips only]: The user fee in Canada is $21.50 per night per adult (18 +) and $8.50 per night per youth (Canadian Dollars). This fee is paid directly to the Canadian Ranger at Prairie Portage when you enter the park. Since you will be crossing the U.S./Canadian border at an uncontrolled entry point, you must obtain a Remote Area Border Crossing permit (CANPASS). We will provide all necessary forms so that you can send your application directly to the Canadian Immigration office. The cost is $30.00 (Canadian Dollars).  When you make a reservation, Parks Ontario (the Canadian reservation organization) will charge your card, $111.00 USD.  This is a $100.00 deposit which is credited toward your final camping permit amount. The $11.00 is a service charge.

Click here for your Remote Area Border Crossing (RABC) permit.

Hint: Always have some flexibility. If you can provide a second and third choice of entry points and entry date, your chances of getting a permit increase exponentially.

Some Things to Remember

Know the Rules [U.S. & Canada]: These are strictly enforced!

  • First of all, the maximum party size per campsite is 9 people in both the BWCAW and Quetico.
  • No cans or bottles, except for fuel or medicine are allowed in either park.
  • No firearms are permitted in the Quetico Park and we strongly discourage their possession in the BWCAW.
  • Finally, dogs are permitted in both parks, however, in Canada they must have a current rabies certificate.

We are a Cooperator with the USDA Forest Service under the Superior National Forest. We issue permits into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. To preserve the wilderness, visitors to the BWCAW must follow certain regulations. Click on this link to learn the details: