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Tips from Maggie on your best bet to secure a BWCA permit on Jan. 31

Maggie Whiting

by Parker Loew

The highly anticipated day when BWCA permits become available is rapidly approaching, and U.S. Forest Service Administrative Operations Specialist out of the Kawishiwi District, Maggie Whiting, is here to help.

Whiting spoke two weeks ago on how BWCA permit buyers can avoid stress and ultimately secure their desired permits when they become available on Jan. 31 at 9 a.m.

“This is the big start,” said Whiting.

For first-time permit buyers, Whiting laid out the essentials and what people need before they can think about purchasing a permit.

“First of all, you’re going to have to make sure that you either have your profile or that you create a profile at That’s imperative,” she said.

Something else people will want to look out for when purchasing a permit is what internet browser they are using.

In years past, permit buyers might have gotten away with using different browsers, but that will not be the case this year.

“Use the latest version of Chrome because it’s the only version that works to purchase a permit,” she said.

At 9 a.m. on Jan. 31, Whiting said that permit buyers will want to hit the “Explore Available Permits” button to get started.

“You’re going to be looking at all the available permits ready to go at that point,” she said. “It’s important to know what you want (beforehand) so that you’re not searching through and trying to decide. Make sure you have picked the entry date and the entry point that fits your needs.”

According to Whiting, an important part of a successful BWCA trip is planning and preparedness.

“Know what you have to do, the rules and regulations, where you want to go, and that you can physically do the route you want. All those things are important to make a successful trip,” she said.

When selecting permits for the BWCA, Whiting said it’s smart to have more than one date and entry location picked out in advance.

“Make sure you have at least three entry dates and three different entry points chosen,” she said. “In case you don’t get the one you want, you will have a couple others to fall back on.”

One way permit buyers can help ensure they secure the location and dates they want is to plan their trip backwards.

“Plan your trip backwards,” she said. “Maybe you want to go on a specific route where you leave through one entry point and come back through another. This way, there are two possible entry points for the same trip.”

Permit buyers are allowed to have up to seven permits in their cart at one time but are only allowed one permit per day.

All but one permit will be canceled by the Forest Service if multiple permits are bought on the same day.

Whiting said not to fret if you don’t get the exact entry date and location you want, as there are tons of great options to explore.

“We have 254 backcountry sites that are not in the Boundary Waters Wilderness that you don’t need a permit for. They are first come, first serve,” she said.

Once the permits people have selected are in their carts, they will be asked to designate a trip leader.

Whiting said it’s imperative to add more than one trip leader.

“You can have up to three alternates. Those should be added before you close out your reservation. You can’t go back and add an alternate if for some reason you can’t go,” she said. “It’s so important. I’ve seen many reservations not being able to be fulfilled because only one person was a trip leader.”

If people decide they can’t go on their trip and would like to cancel their permits for any reason, the Forest Service advises people to cancel as far in advance as possible.

Canceling permits early allows for other people who want to go into the BWCAW to get those canceled permits.

If you cancel permits two or more days before the date on the permit there is no charge for the cancellation.

If you cancel inside the two-day window, there is a $32 cancellation fee, but other recreational fees will be refunded.

Once the reservation is secured, you will be sent two videos to help remember the rules and regulations of the BWCA and help to plan and prepare.

“Those are good refreshers for people,” said Whiting. “It’s good to have a refresher. We’re also going to tell you about the weather, fire, and bear activity (in the videos).”

If you would like more information, there is a trip planning guide on that has all the information you need for a successful BWCA trip.

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