The dead of winter can be a good time to start dreaming of a summer vacation. In Minnesota, many might be thinking about a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. But fewer of those dreams appear to include overnight stays.
The 1.3-million-acre BWCAW, located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota (see map), is renowned for its vast nonmotorized lakes and other recreation areas. Since 2003, the park has seen a steady drop in permits (required for overnight stays and other special uses between May 1 and Sept. 30), but an increase in total visitors, according to information from the Superior National Forest office (see chart).
The office believes the annual variation and general decline in permits is likely the result of a combination of factors, including camp fire restrictions, bugs, weather, gas prices and the general health of the economy.
At the same time, based on permits and other monitoring, the office estimates that there has been a slow, steady increase in total park visitation from an estimated 200,000 people in 2000 to an estimated 250,000 people in recent years. This increase, according to the office, likely reflected shifts in travel patterns and length of stay, with fewer overnight stays and more day use spread more broadly across the seasons.