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MPR News

BWCA online permitting relaunched; frustrations remain

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Sunset on Beth Lake
The sun sets over a bay of Beth Lake in the Boundary Waters.
Cody Nelson | MPR News 2016

The United States Forest Service on Monday restarted its system for people to get Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness permits, but some users continue to report problems with the reworked online reservation system.

The new system was intended to boost security, but it also ended the lottery system that for years was how the Forest Service granted its limited number of day-use permits to boaters who want to use the few Boundary Waters lakes that allow motors.

The initial launch of the new system in late January failed not long after it went online with many users unable to access it. The Forest Service took the system offline after a few hours.

On Twitter Monday, the Superior National Forest office said that online reservations were working best but the call center may require users to call back during "extremely busy times." The Forest Service did not comment on how the system was working over-all.

Frustrations, though, were apparent on Twitter.

Misty Merhar told MPR News she tried to make Boundary Waters reservations Monday for Bass Lake. She was able to fill out the form, but said it was confusing and she ended up with the wrong type of permit. By the time she tried again the slots were all taken.

"My husband has been going up there for years with his dad and grandpa and started a tradition with my son. They like to go to the same campsite," she said. "It's a family tradition. To be able to not go just really sucks."