Demand for kayaks, canoes exceeding supply as more people buy permits for Boundary Waters

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A visitor use report on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Superior National Forest released in late April said after weeks of lockdowns leading up to the 2020 season, COVID-19 made for a big boost in visitors.

Outdoor gear businesses say because of that they’re having a tough time keeping up with the increased demand.

"It’s great to see, we love to see people getting outside. But it is unfortunate to have to turn people away," said Sheridan Brain, inventory manager for Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis.

Midwest Mountaineering said the need for outdoor equipment is exceeding the supply.

"A lot of our vendors aren’t able to keep up with the demand," Braun said.

Braun said right now Midwest Mountaineering only has one solo canoe and one recreational kayak in stock. The store usually carries at least 50 canoes and kayaks at a time.

Because of the demand exceeding the supply amid the pandemic, Braun said Midwest Mountaineering is launching a rental program.

"We can’t get people new boats, so we’ll do our best to get them something," she said.

The visitor use report revealed in 2020 there was a 16% increase in the number of visitors and a 25 percent increase in the number of permits issued. Those permit payments help fund the wilderness program, said Joanna Gilkeson, public affairs specialist with Superior National Forest.

"More visitors does mean that we have the ability to hire more wilderness rangers," Gilkeson said. "Will that one year translate to having more wilderness rangers over, every year from now on out? I don’t know the answer to that."

Midwest Mountaineering said one of its vendors might be able to get more canoes in August or September. The rest said they’ll have to wait until spring of 2022.

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