Why monitor visitor use?

Many visitors to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) seek a place separated from the modern world within the 1 million acres of undeveloped forest and water, where they can gain a sense of solitude and connect with nature. With more than 150,000 annual visitors, the chance of encountering another person is likely in the more popular areas of the BWCAW and in some cases this can change the dynamics of a wilderness trip.

In an effort to better understand the use that is occurring in the Wilderness, visitor use monitoring is conducted every year. This activity helps the US Forest Service to determine the opportunities for solitude or likelihood of encountering other people within the BWCAW. 

Those individuals participating in this program travel a route on a specific date to conduct monitoring. Volunteers will spend part of the time monitoring use from a campsite and while travelling. 


Monitoring Dates and Locations


What is expected of Visitor Use Monitoring volunteers?

  • Be self-sufficient in the BWCAW.

  • Provide the gear needed to travel and camp in the BWCAW or rent through an outfitter.

  • Work in groups of two.

  • Perform monitoring activities for 8 hours on the day(s) indicated in the designated location.

  • Follow monitoring protocol.

  • Perform daily check-ins

  • Follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles.


Daily Schedule for Visitor Use Monitoring Volunteers

  • AM - Spend 2 hours in camp documenting any people you heard or see at campsites or on the water.

  • Travel the designated route (either around the lake you are camped on or to one or more adjacent lakes) documenting any people you see or hear.

  • PM - Spend 2 hours in camp documenting any people you heard or see at campsites or on the water.


The Perks

Volunteers receive...

  • A waived entry permit fee (for groups with only two people).

  • Some camping equipment may be available for use from the Northwoods Volunteer Connection depending on the timing of monitoring trips.



Visitor Use Monitoring Interest Form

Name *
Phone number
Phone number
Do you already have a permit reservation? *
If there is a specific lake or entry point area you'd like to work in please list it here. We cannot guarantee that there will be a need in the area selected.
Monitoring volunteers are required to work in groups of two. Please list the name and email address of the person you will be working with.

This program is made possible by support from the US Forest Service.