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      Riddle me this... campsite availability / quota     
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THEGrandRapids
distinguished member (169)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/01/2020 02:12PM
I keep reading posts about the BWCA being "busier" than normal and I believe it, even without waiting to see empirical data on permit usage. I'm also reading posts about people searching for campsites and rangers advising people to not count on campsites near the entry, camping at portages.

A report of a huge number of first timers, take the first site you see in your particular area, etc.......BUT...... doesn't the permit quota system already take all this into account?!?!? Isn't the permit quota system designed to handle the ins and outs of particular entry points and set the limit at a full capacity? It's not as if we are over capacity, the forest service isn't selling more than the quota. While there may be some going in without a permit, I'm willing to assume this is a small number and not significant to the problem.

Also, this isn't the thread to debate how well a government can use analytics to model such data) Are trips longer this year- something the permit doesn't account for, but the data is certainly there with the input of the exit date? I'm assuming the exit data is used to assess which entry points tend to have longer trips. I'm not well versed in the history of the permits system and how often they update the quota's for each entry.

If there is this adage that even the forest service is telling people that its tough to find a campsite, why don't they reduce the number of entries, or increase the number of campsites? (This last one is a rhetorical question.)
 
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Portage99
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07/01/2020 03:09PM
I don’t have the answer. But I’m curious about the answer as well. I wondered how they determine the number of permits relative to campsites. I think it would make a more enjoyable experience if you knew you were going to get a campsite somewhere in the area that you planned. I know it can’t be an exact science since you don’t exactly know where people will go from the entry though. It is a problem, sounds like especially this year.
 
07/01/2020 03:17PM
I think the other factor that we can't determine from data is how far are people paddling from entry points? If there are more first time paddlers and they are staying closer to entry points and base camping, it can really make things seem much worse. It would be interesting to know what people are seeing on trips deep into the BWCA.

I just know it wasn't normal to have a 4 night trip where it was so hard to find a site, have a group of 3 share our site as it was almost dark and they couldn't find a site after paddling all day, and seeing 2 separate parties camped at portages on our way out early in the morning.
 
HangLoose
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07/01/2020 05:21PM
The BWCAW isn't that expansive in certain sections. With many entry points, it only takes a half day's paddle and you are already approaching another entry point area. There are very few areas within the BWCAW where you can be beyond a single day paddle to the nearest entry point. I would say that over 80% of the BWCAW is within a single day's paddle of an entry point for most people. I think in July, if you want to be assured some semblance of solitude and have a reasonable chance of finding a vacant campsite then campers should plan to get creative. Some options to increase your chances of solitude and vacant campsites is to enter a PMA, find some dead end lake, or leave the main routes. Otherwise you are gonna find crowds in July.

With that said, I firmly believe that the Forestry Service needs to revisit the permit quotas.
 
07/02/2020 03:13PM
I just got back from a trip. My first night I stayed on Shell. Most, not all sites were taken. I've been on Shell when every site was taken, though. I headed up through Slim and then across to Gebe and finally to Oyster. I spent 3 nites on Eugene and only saw canoes when I first arrived. I spent 3 nights all by myself. I ventured up to Gun and never saw anyone. I saw one campsite occupied on Beartrack and one on Thumb and I never passed anyone until Gebe. I saw a lot more traffic on Gebe but at the end of the day, 3 of 5 campsites were occupied. When I got to Oyster, there was one other group there. I spent 2 nights on Oyster all by myself. My guess is that Agnes was probably close to full. When I solo, I want to be on the water by 7:00 and travel no more than 5 hours so I'm looking for a campsite by noon. I see lots of people arriving at lakes at five or later expecting to get the best site or getting one at all. My point is, I think, there are plenty of campsites in the bwca. Not all are great and not all are on your favorite lake but they're out there.
 
07/02/2020 03:31PM
I haven't read this thread really carefully, but I think the Forest Service might consider reworking the quota system a bit. When we first started BWCA camping I don't remember even hearing of "base-camping". I think most people moved every day, or at least every other day, and I think the idea of base-camping at a site not far away from the entry point was rare. If I remember correctly, in the early 70's there were even some lakes that you could only stay three days without moving.

In the fifty years since we started canoe-tripping, we began to see more and more people with camps that were obviously not going to be broken up the next day. I don't know how you can fix this problem, but perhaps the system could be tweaked in some way?

It is very frustrating to do a trip of 12-13 days and not be able to find a site on that last day of the trip. We never had a problem at the beginning of the trip, as we were making miles to get out into the wilderness, but I loved camping that last night and having just a short paddle in the next morning. The availability of sites close to entry points seems to be the situation now. Wish I had an answer.
 
07/02/2020 04:14PM
I will add my recent experience doing a 6 day loop out of LIS North. We entered 6/21/20. We were on the water by 9 am. We paddled past 2 open camp sites on Lower Pauness on our way North to Little Loon.

Our last day we were thinking of camping on Lynx Lake at a camp site on our way back to the EP. We observed 4 camp sites taken (we didn't check them all). We were able to camp on Little Shell without doing another portage.

We had rain overnight and a gray windy morning for the last day. We slept in until about 9 am before breaking camp. As we paddled out of Shell we saw no occupied camp sites although we didn't check Conn Island. I think we saw 5 sites open on Shell. We stopped at one and had lunch before doing the double feature portage back to Lower Pauness.

When I went through, Lynx was more popular than Shell.

We passed a group of fathers and sons from Missouri on the portage. They were looking for a site on Shell. I am sure they found one.

As we paddled out of Lower Pauness towards the 8 rod lift over portage, we observed two open camp sites on Lower Pauness.

 
jwmiller39
member (44)member
 
07/02/2020 08:24PM
Spartan2: “In the forty years since we started canoe-tripping, we began to see more and more people with camps that were obviously not going to be broken up the next day. I don't know how you can fix this problem, but perhaps the system could be tweaked in some way?"

Just because you like to break camp every morning certainly doesn’t mean others should have to also. I go to the bwca for two things primarily: to relax and to fish. If I’m on good fishing and am happy with my campsite, I’m not going to move just to move. You waste so much time breaking camp and setting it up again when moving sites that is majorly cuts into time spent fishing and relaxing. If you are looking for solitude, you need to get away from the entry points or go to the quetico. Others should not have to break camp everyday just because that’s what you do. If you judge your trips based on the number of lakes and portages under your belt, that’s fine but don’t judge others because they don’t do the same. Different strokes for different folks.
 
Canoeinggal
member (28)member
 
07/02/2020 08:58PM
Yikes! What lake where you on when this happened?
 
Canoeinggal
member (28)member
 
07/02/2020 08:59PM
We’re heading in July 4 at Lizz Swamp entry point. Where was your trip ? Exit?
 
thistlekicker
distinguished member (379)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/02/2020 09:17PM
I believe the permit quotas were set (in large part) based on usage estimates at the time of the wilderness designation. Times were different, resource utilization was different, and who's to say they even estimated usage accurately back then.

My explanation is surly an oversimplification and I'm probably missing some nuances...but I can confidently say that the current quota system is not based on current usage patterns nor targeted at a goal of "optimal" usage of the resource.

The system clearly needs to be overhauled to protect the resource and improve visitor experiences, but I doubt the will or resources exist available to do so.
 
07/02/2020 09:44PM
thistlekicker: "I believe the permit quotas were set (in large part) based on usage estimates at the time of the wilderness designation. Times were different, resource utilization was different, and who's to say they even estimated usage accurately back then.

My explanation is surly an oversimplification and I'm probably missing some nuances...but I can confidently say that the current quota system is not based on current usage patterns nor targeted at a goal of "optimal" usage of the resource.

The system clearly needs to be overhauled to protect the resource and improve visitor experiences, but I doubt the will or resources exist available to do so."


If I remember correctly, the permit system was set up because the Bwca was being overused and abused. If the permits are lowered there’s a high probability that YOU might not ever get a permit. People used to take longer trips over longer distances. Today, most people don’t have the time for a two week trip. Shorter trips mean shorter travel distances. I want solitude, so I’m willing to travel longer distances to get it. There are plenty of campsites out there that rarely get used. My last trip proved that. I stayed on Eugene for three nights and I had the lake all to myself. I stayed on Finger and was the only one there. Another example, Nina Moose entry point is one of the most popular entry points. Most people stay on Agnes on the way in or out or stay on Nina Moose. But if you head to Ramshead, you’re likely not to see anyone for days. Sure it’s longer portaging but definitely away from the crowds. I’ve stayed on Shell Lake, but when I head to Hustler Lake, I rarely see another group. I don’t want to give up a permit opportunity when I know I can find a lake with few or no people.
 
Savage Voyageur
distinguished member(13262)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
 
07/02/2020 10:06PM
You ask the age old question here. This has been asked and answered in various ways here. It’s really more complicated than I ever thought, lots of moving parts.

Example, Subtract numbers of permits and outfitters will not get as many people. Add permits and there are no sites available.

But for the life of me I can’t understand why Pine lake has one permit a day. Other entry points have many permits and no sites available.

I have said a few times here before that every entry point needs to be adjusted throughout the season. It needs to be a moving target based on last years data. Not just a number of permits that seldom change.
 
thistlekicker
distinguished member (379)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/02/2020 10:57PM
I understand that when you're within at least a half-day of travel to/from an entry point during the summer months you'll almost always be dealing with crowds and a circus atmosphere. Unless there's a long/difficult portage involved, or you're using certain entry points with more restrictive quotas.

But a) not everyone understands this, leading to threads like this one; and b) there's bound to be some resource consequences for the current level of frontcountry use.

Couldn't the permit system accommodate some rough outlines of travel plans? Wouldn't it be good to know that of the X number of permits available each day for an entry point, 75% of those parties don't plan to do more than 1 or 2 portages? I think a frontcountry/backcountry permit system would be doable.
 
carmike
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07/03/2020 12:53AM
thistlekicker: "Couldn't the permit system accommodate some rough outlines of travel plans? Wouldn't it be good to know that of the X number of permits available each day for an entry point, 75% of those parties don't plan to do more than 1 or 2 portages? I think a frontcountry/backcountry permit system would be doable."

I think that's a fair point -- and one that's already in place at a *few* entry points (like Mudro/EP 23, with the "No Camping on Horse" option) or the "Seagull Only" permit, too. Curious what others think.
 
andym
distinguished member(4783)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
07/03/2020 01:26AM
It would have to be a system where both permits are limited in their area with some overlap. If the back country permits were allowed to be used near the EP then people would just grab those first. That may happen with the Lake One EP permits that can go either west to the river or east to Lake One while some can only go east to the lake. There is no disadvantage to taking the more open permit and so some of those may get used on the Lake and prevent people from using the river.
 
billconner
distinguished member(7319)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
07/03/2020 06:12AM
I have not noticed this to be so bothersome before this year, and don't believe a major overhaul is justified on this year's experience and the pandemic circumstances.
 
07/03/2020 06:18AM
jwmiller39: "Spartan2: “In the forty years since we started canoe-tripping, we began to see more and more people with camps that were obviously not going to be broken up the next day. I don't know how you can fix this problem, but perhaps the system could be tweaked in some way?"


Just because you like to break camp every morning certainly doesn’t mean others should have to also. I go to the bwca for two things primarily: to relax and to fish. If I’m on good fishing and am happy with my campsite, I’m not going to move just to move. You waste so much time breaking camp and setting it up again when moving sites that is majorly cuts into time spent fishing and relaxing. If you are looking for solitude, you need to get away from the entry points or go to the quetico. Others should not have to break camp everyday just because that’s what you do. If you judge your trips based on the number of lakes and portages under your belt, that’s fine but don’t judge others because they don’t do the same. Different strokes for different folks. "


I am sorry that you interpreted my comments to be critical of base-camping. I thought it made it clear that i was just remarking upon the differences in style of camping that I have noticed from when we first started canoe-tripping in the 1970's until current times. My point, which you seem to have missed, is that perhaps the system needs a bit of tweaking. I didn't say a word about solitude; only about the availability of campsites near entry points. And you have no idea whether we always broke camp every day or not.

I am not judging anyone, nor did anything that I said imply that I was.

But as billconner has pointed out, this is not a typical year, either.

Enjoy your campsites and your fishing.

 
07/03/2020 06:28AM
thistlekicker: "
Couldn't the permit system accommodate some rough outlines of travel plans? Wouldn't it be good to know that of the X number of permits available each day for an entry point, 75% of those parties don't plan to do more than 1 or 2 portages? I think a frontcountry/backcountry permit system would be doable."


This makes sense to me. :-)
 
mutz
distinguished member(1225)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/03/2020 08:41AM
It seems that most people who have any number of trips understand you have to work a little to get some solitude. Unless you are willing to bushwhacked this is not a wilderness area so may be crowded. We base camp, on our first day we start at or near first light and work to get as far as we can to set up base camp. We very rarely within earshot of anyone else. Coming out is much faster as half of our weight(fresh food) is gone.
My point is accept the fact that to be secluded you have to work a bit, and if crowds are ok you don’t go in as far. I don’t think anyone is going to be looking at revamping the permit system with the current situation
 
IowaFishinGuy
senior member (62)senior membersenior member
 
07/03/2020 08:54AM
I’ve only been a BWCA goer for a few years, but it does seem like the popularity is up this year, between the message boards here and on the BWCA group on Facebook, first timers asking for trip and route advice. It’ll be interesting to see if this trend continues next year, or if it’ll go back to a more normal usage. When everything is shut down and about the only thing you can do is go camping/canoeing, you’ll get more use. Plus the Quetico not being open to Americans. I would think next summer when people are attending baseball games, concerts, fairs, etc there will be less going to the BDub
 
RunningFox
senior member (58)senior membersenior member
 
07/03/2020 10:31AM
Too many people. Period. Folks on this thread reference the 70’. Well our population was 200 million then. Now it’s 330 million. And growing daily.

I attempted a solo five-day trip to Wood lake on June 10th of this year. Winds were gusting 30 mph on that day. I was only able to check out the first three campsites, all of which were occupied. Then I decided to err on the side of safety and with much regret gave up. Two or three separate people told me to just go In the next day. In other words, they recommended I disrespect the permitted park entry rules. That’s not something my conscience would allow.

The population of the USA has more than tripled in the past 100 years. If you love the wilderness (BWCA park), then be thankful for living today and not 100 years from now. The USA will probably have One Billion inhabitants in 2120. Do the math and research before dismissing this. Can you honestly imagine the BWCA then?
 
AdamXChicago
distinguished member(1088)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/03/2020 11:22AM
Just got back from a 7-day trip (Sea Gull - SAK - Sag). Saw many disappointed canoeists in the late afternoon approaching our site, only to turn away. The 2:00PM scramble is alive and well...
 
07/03/2020 11:34AM
Yes the first lake squatter Dilemma has always been an issue in crowded times. But that just softens the use of the interior lakes. The permit system has been alive for as long as I’ve been going. Is it perfect? No. But it’s worked pretty darn good for the over forty years I’ve gone. If you go to your first or second lake and give up? Hey, that’s on you.
 
07/03/2020 10:07PM
I think some of this is expectations. The quota system is set up for entry into the BWCA, not guaranteeing campsites at entry points.

You need to enter and be prepared to move on. The BWCA is supposed to be a wilderness trip not a camping trip. I see Wood Lake come up as an example a lot. If you enter at Wood with the intention of camping on Wood you are setting yourself up for failure. Wood is a BWCA entry point not a camping destination—-a permit for Wood was never designed to make sure you can camp on Wood. If you find a spot, great...but to expect one is not realistic and I don’t think a quota change will do much.

You just cannot go into the BWCAW and expect to get a camp close to the entry point. I am not even sure limiting quotas would change this. In every case once I get into the interior there have always been plenty of campsites. If the trend now is for more base camping or more camping near an entry point then unless there is a drastic reduction the problem won’t change much. Then by limiting permits you would be reducing the opportunities of many people that want to get into the interior.

T
 
Grizzlyman
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07/03/2020 10:37PM
Seems to me that if someone WANTED to get good data on usage- it wouldn’t be that hard. Just survey everyone before they go in. Then, send surverys when you exit to see what you did.

We all love the BWCA and would be happy to , for the purpose of providing accurate information to revamp the quota system, participate. Seems one could get very good data to see where people are staying and for how long just from this. Any changes to the quota system would have to start with decent data.

Not that difficult if they wanted to revamp it...

 
thistlekicker
distinguished member (379)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/05/2020 08:17AM
We need young people with families and new visitors to have good initial experiences in the BWCA, which is why the camping situation on entry point and frontcountry lakes is so important. If the first impression is one of stress, confusion, and discomfort that's a terrible way to recruit new supporters of the area and wilderness in general. I personally feel that visitor numbers should be reduced but making life miserable for people so they don't come back is not the way to do it.

TBH I feel like the larger problem is campsite availability on the way OUT. With the amount of daylight available in midsummer you can almost always travel IN far enough to find an unoccupied site. But I've ended a few trips a day early because we were unable to find a site moving towards our exit point, and I'm talking about a solid half-day of travel, not a situation where we were planning for a "quick exit" the next day. We always make the best of the situation but we also live less than 6 hours from most BWCA entry points so have just exited and driven home, or rented a hotel room. Not something that everyone can do.
 
ZaraSp00k
distinguished member(1483)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/06/2020 07:04AM
I'm too busy paddling and enjoying the outdoors to worry about such things, I'll leave it all to you folks to design utopia.

dripping with sarcasm
 
Canoearoo
distinguished member(2250)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/06/2020 11:22AM
I say keep the number of people aloud in but add more campsites at the entry lakes. That way those that want to go away from the crowds just need to push on and those that don't want to push on have more options.
 
billconner
distinguished member(7319)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
07/06/2020 05:39PM
timatkn: "
You just cannot go into the BWCAW and expect to get a camp close to the entry point.


T"


Certainly not in July and most of August. Not sure what June is like, besides buggy. May and September its very possible to. October is heaven. And November to April - God bless you.
 
corvidologist
member (45)member
 
07/06/2020 06:59PM
billconner: "timatkn: "
You just cannot go into the BWCAW and expect to get a camp close to the entry point.



T"



Certainly not in July and most of August. Not sure what June is like, besides buggy. May and September its very possible to. October is heaven. And November to April - God bless you."


Imagine skiing in to Knife to fish lakers and EVERY CAMPSITE IS TAKEN.
 
07/06/2020 07:51PM
thistlekicker: "We need young people with families and new visitors to have good initial experiences in the BWCA, which is why the camping situation on entry point and frontcountry lakes is so important. If the first impression is one of stress, confusion, and discomfort that's a terrible way to recruit new supporters of the area and wilderness in general. I personally feel that visitor numbers should be reduced but making life miserable for people so they don't come back is not the way to do it.


TBH I feel like the larger problem is campsite availability on the way OUT. With the amount of daylight available in midsummer you can almost always travel IN far enough to find an unoccupied site. But I've ended a few trips a day early because we were unable to find a site moving towards our exit point, and I'm talking about a solid half-day of travel, not a situation where we were planning for a "quick exit" the next day. We always make the best of the situation but we also live less than 6 hours from most BWCA entry points so have just exited and driven home, or rented a hotel room. Not something that everyone can do. "

Agree very strongly with the first part of this. It may be inconvenient near the entry points, but it is essential to get young families and young people into the area and have them have a positive experience. Kevin Callan has talked about this a lot: the crucial aspect of getting young folks involved.
 
tomo
senior member (75)senior membersenior member
 
07/07/2020 05:58PM
Posted this on a related thread as well:

It's such an interesting and hugely complicated question. There are thresholds of use that detract from the experience people seek by going into the wilderness in the first place. Too many people/campsites likely diminishes everyone's experience. Too little access/opportunity prevents people from going and having such experiences.

I don't know how the management agencies gauge or adjust use, but it seems like data collection and ongoing adjustments would be critical management tools, instead of, say, just keeping the same number of permits at each entry point because that's how it has historically been done.

I think in some instances the problem is as much about perception as reality. The psychological worry about whether or not campsites are going to be open impacts decisions and creates a low level of worry. I imagine the actual instances of not being able to find a campsite (excepting perhaps the desire to camp near your exit point on the last night) are somewhat few and far between.

One of the joys of the Quetico is seeing fewer people and feeling as though when you are ready to camp you can find a spot. This is freeing on a number of levels, and adds to the enjoyment. The relative crowdedness of the BWCA detracts from the experience, in my opinion. And yet, each of us that love and enjoy the BWCA contribute to the very issues we don't like, except we often think in terms of other people impacting on our experience, versus us impacting theirs.

On a somewhat related note, if campsites are going to be equipped with thunderboxes and firegrates, I think they should also include a safe place to store food. Sure would help with problem bears and the like.
Bear proof storage
 
GopherAdventure
distinguished member(656)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/07/2020 06:12PM
I’m not sure any of that matters this year. There’s so many people flocking up north this summer to get away and a very large number have no idea that you need a permit to enter the BWCA. I was at the landing for Lake One for a day trip last weekend and there was a group unloading stuff there and they said they were going to put in at Wood Lake, but the parking lot was too full so they came to Lake One instead. I said, “wow, did you head into town to switch your permit first” (thinking, there’s no way a Lake One permit is available). They just stared at me, cluelessly. Yes, they had no idea they needed a permit. I wonder how many people are in the BWCA right now, with no permit.

Also last weekend, another guy from Wisconsin in a GIANT motor home pulled up beside me on the Fernberg Road as I was out for a run and stopped me to ask an “important” question. He says, “Where’s the best vista to light off some big fireworks in the area?” He wasn’t joking. Of course I told him that he was in a National Forest and that fireworks are illegal here, then I gently reminded him that there’s also a fire ban and very dry conditions currently. The guy stared at me for a few seconds and finally says, “so, no vistas then, it’s ok, we’ll find a place.” Then he takes off, blasting a puff of diesel exhaust in my face as he heads deeper into the woods that we all cherish.

I’ve been appalled at some of the stuff I’ve seen this year.

Tony
 
TRadam
member (8)member
 
07/16/2020 05:51AM
Some very good questions and observations in this thread. Things have changed since the wilderness was established. In a normal year now, people are taking a few day trip vs. the long trips of the 60’s and 70’s. This means camp sights near entry points see more congestion due to the fact that people are traveling much shorter distance. We also have many new people who are quickly discovering they brought too much stuff, and after a few portages decide that portaging feels too much like “work” and shorten the trip, again affecting entry point portage campsights It would be useful for the FS to at least take into account utilization and trends to establish protocol that protects the area while still maintaining access so that people can understand why it is so important to protect. Less permits means more camping and less people, but also would limit chances and opportunity for us all.
 
mschi772
distinguished member (434)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/16/2020 12:51PM
I assume that it is a combination of more longer trips (since there's no real accounting for how long any particular group remains in the BWCA before exitting), cheaters who are going in without a permit at all, and people not venturing as deep.

There are areas where there is no option to "just go deeper" such as the Vento unit east of Gunflint Trail for example. In those kinds of areas, there are far more limited possibilities, and it isn't long before you're gone as "deep" as you can go and are already approaching another entry point.

It is far too uncommon to even see USFS personnel, and there are far too many stories of people who do meet them not even being checked. Even this year, I've seen a couple stories of people meeting USFS, volunteering their permits to be checked, and being turned down. With such pathetically low enforcement, I have no doubt at all that there are people out there who are just rolling the dice on camping without a permit at all. After all, the odds of not being caught seem to be strongly in their favor. Without a working and enforced permit system, everything the permit system tries to accomplish in terms of population throttling completely fails.
 
MatthewMN
 
07/16/2020 01:37PM
People entering without a permit is definitely happening in my opinion, and on a larger scale than normal. I have taken two separate trips this year into entry points that have one permit per day yet two groups where entering on the same day as me even tho I had the only permit that day! On my way out I went past three groups! There are no other entry points around it is a out and back trip. My second trip was the same story but worse because the narrow portage was blocked by a group that made it there personal camp site! They even had a large fire in what I consider the Driest Conditions I have came across in a while, right in the middle of the portage. On the way back out the portage was covered in trash, more cans than I could afford to pick up!
 
mschi772
distinguished member (434)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/16/2020 04:23PM
MatthewMN: " People entering without a permit is definitely happening in my opinion, and on a larger scale than normal. I have taken two separate trips this year into entry points that have one permit per day yet two groups where entering on the same day as me even tho I had the only permit that day! On my way out I went past three groups! There are no other entry points around it is a out and back trip. My second trip was the same story but worse because the narrow portage was blocked by a group that made it there personal camp site! They even had a large fire in what I consider the Driest Conditions I have came across in a while, right in the middle of the portage. On the way back out the portage was covered in trash, more cans than I could afford to pick up! "

That's insanely frustrating. I hope you did everything in your power to collect information and light a metaphorical fire under the USFS to go out there and police those areas.

I really wish that there would be some locals authorized to act as sorts of deputies to the USFS who could at least go to entry points with the authority to check permits and issue fines. I know we can't have someone "guarding" every entry point all the time, but I'm sure we have some interested locals who could be trusted with that authority who would be willing to spend some time performing checks. We don't need to catch ever last one of these people, but we do need to start catching more of them so that more of them decide that the risks of trying to cheat the system outweigh the potential benefits.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if it would fund increased enforcement in the area, I'd GLADLY pay triple the current permit fee. Even at $45/person, it would still be a bargain, and with 150k visitors per year, that would be like over $4 million more to go toward enforcement.
 
MatthewMN
 
07/17/2020 01:39PM
Enforcement is harder than it sounds I get that, but a few things need to be done because it’s just getting out of hand, the entry point I was at had a truck with a camper parked sideways across half a dozen parking spots! And don’t even get me started on the tree cutting at my favorite camp sites because I might start crying again. While I hate the idea of putting in more enforcement/regulations such as parking permits and check stations but it might have to be done, or we’re not Going to have a wilderness left to enjoy!
 
thistlekicker
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07/17/2020 04:07PM
A part of it may be situations where a large group under a single permit claims multiple campsites. Just finished an 8 day trip and couldn't BELIEVE the number of 9 person groups (and some larger) that we saw, many more than I've ever seen before. And some were clearly splitting up their group across two or more campsites. True, I can't confirm that the different campsites didn't each have their own permits, but I have my suspicions.

I know it's a challenge to fit tents for 9 people on most BWCA campsites but less experienced folks might not anticipate that or maybe not even realize they need to camp together, especially with the "streamlined" permit issuance approach this summer.

btw we ended our trip a day early because no campsites were available on what turned out to be an 8 hour exit route. We understood this might happen, it's just discouraging to see this again and again. Something needs to change.
 
mschi772
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07/17/2020 04:56PM
MatthewMN: "Enforcement is harder than it sounds I get that, but a few things need to be done because it’s just getting out of hand"

Agreed. It may only take a few things, to make a difference. We don't need perfect enforcement; we just need more (effective) enforcement. It may not take much more at all to shift the calculations of would-be violators toward steering clear of the risks of getting caught. Bottom line: *something* should be done, and we can take it from there.
 
08/02/2020 02:03PM
egknuti: "I just got back from a trip. My first night I stayed on Shell. Most, not all sites were taken. I've been on Shell when every site was taken, though. I headed up through Slim and then across to Gebe and finally to Oyster. I spent 3 nites on Eugene and only saw canoes when I first arrived. I spent 3 nights all by myself. I ventured up to Gun and never saw anyone. I saw one campsite occupied on Beartrack and one on Thumb and I never passed anyone until Gebe. I saw a lot more traffic on Gebe but at the end of the day, 3 of 5 campsites were occupied. When I got to Oyster, there was one other group there. I spent 2 nights on Oyster all by myself. My guess is that Agnes was probably close to full. When I solo, I want to be on the water by 7:00 and travel no more than 5 hours so I'm looking for a campsite by noon. I see lots of people arriving at lakes at five or later expecting to get the best site or getting one at all. My point is, I think, there are plenty of campsites in the bwca. Not all are great and not all are on your favorite lake but they're out there. "

Reassuring, thanks. We head out this week and I was getting really nervous.
 
Nigal
distinguished member (158)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/02/2020 03:59PM
egknuti: "I just got back from a trip. My first night I stayed on Shell. Most, not all sites were taken. I've been on Shell when every site was taken, though. I headed up through Slim and then across to Gebe and finally to Oyster. I spent 3 nites on Eugene and only saw canoes when I first arrived. I spent 3 nights all by myself. I ventured up to Gun and never saw anyone. I saw one campsite occupied on Beartrack and one on Thumb and I never passed anyone until Gebe. I saw a lot more traffic on Gebe but at the end of the day, 3 of 5 campsites were occupied. When I got to Oyster, there was one other group there. I spent 2 nights on Oyster all by myself. My guess is that Agnes was probably close to full. When I solo, I want to be on the water by 7:00 and travel no more than 5 hours so I'm looking for a campsite by noon. I see lots of people arriving at lakes at five or later expecting to get the best site or getting one at all. My point is, I think, there are plenty of campsites in the bwca. Not all are great and not all are on your favorite lake but they're out there. "

That’s my MO too; out on the water early and in camp about the time the wind comes up. Have a nap in the hammock and evening paddle/fish.
 
LindenTree
distinguished member(2506)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/02/2020 04:54PM
Not in the BW but I'm dispersed camping by Isabella for the 2nd time this year. I came up Saturday and was curious as to how full the campgrounds were. Out of curiousoty I checked the open ones to see how many had open campsites. Sullivan Lake, Finland State Forest, Eckbeck, state forest campgrounds and Kawishiwi River yesterday, USFS, every campground was full. The forest service now has gates blocking off many of the closed campgrounds that do not have boat or recreation acess.
Nine Mile Lake, Little Isabella River, and McDougal campgrounds these gates were put up since I was up here the end of May.
My honey hole dispersed site at Dragon lake was also occupied yesterday, but I sort of figured it would be. Wouldn't have come up on a Saturday but I had to get out of the house and escape the Inlaws.
This year is kinda crazy up here with campgrounds being closed, the open ones are filling up fast.
 
Michwall2
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08/02/2020 06:03PM
My planning always avoids getting too close to an entry on the last day. (Weather permitting.) The last day is going to be 4-6 hours travel before we are out. Need to be out early? Start earlier in the morning. I have left Mesaba Lake at barely light to be out at Sawbill by noonish. That being said:

With all the technology that is used by companies like Amazon and the Airline industry to track supply and demand of their products and instantly adjust pricing accordingly, I would bet that there could be a system devised to track usage (intended usage?) to best adjust either the price to control usage or simply adjust the number of permits available on the fly.

There are a number of entries that already have lake specific (or lake denying) permit availabilities. Could the campsites on lakes within 2-3 miles of the entry have campsite reservation systems (a la the Sylvania Wilderness)? With an attending per day camping fee? (For enforcement.) You want a guaranteed campsite on your way in/out? Reserve one! You want to base camp close to the entry? It will cost you per day. I know that the logistics of the BW are quantum above the Sylvania, but that's what computers are for.

RE: Lack of permit checking - I would bet that rangers have been told to not touch anything belonging to campers this season. E.g. permits. Having to extract a ranger that has come down with Covid-19 in the field is probably not a scenario they want to deal with. Better to have people out there watching and working than to have them home sick in bed or the hospital.
 
mjmkjun
distinguished member(2654)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/02/2020 08:43PM
Michwall2: "
...

RE: Lack of permit checking - I would bet that rangers have been told to not touch anything belonging to campers this season. E.g. permits. Having to extract a ranger that has come down with Covid-19 in the field is probably not a scenario they want to deal with. Better to have people out there watching and working than to have them home sick in bed or the hospital.
"

I hadn't thought of that. Of course!
Meanwhile, Old timers and Old Trippers must endure the onslaught. meh
 
4keys
distinguished member(741)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/03/2020 09:27PM
I can sort of see the merits of having some sites on the 1st/ 2nd lakes in be reservable, especially on the way out.

If it is my second to last night there and I know I have 8 hard hours ahead of me to get to the car, and the last few hours will be on a large lake (and windy ), I will try to get closer to the EP on my last night so I can be off that large lake and to my car before the waves become impossible. It would be nice to know I have a reserved site on my last night and don't have to push through to the exit because all the sites are taken. Especially if i would then have a long drive also.

I don't think there really is the perfect solution to this dilemma. Let's say you do have site reservations. What happens if a storm goes through and travel becomes impossible on some lakes? Do you still move? Share a site with those that did / did not move? Someone will always be unhappy about the quotas.
 
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