A new reservation system for booking entry to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness crashed in less than 2 hours on Wednesday.
The U.S. Forest Service has done away with the previous lottery system, and replaced it with a first-come, first-served reservation system at Recreation.gov.
By mid-morning, the website had stopped taking reservations, with a message posted on its site reading: "Due to technical difficulties, reservations for Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are closed.
"We are diligently working to correct the problem. Please check back for status updates."
In a message sent to outfitters in northern Minnesota and shared on the What's Up Ely, MN? Facebook page, Ann Schwaller of the Superior National Forest Supervisor's Office said: "We don’t know why this happened ... we are sick over it as well."
"A ton of work has gone into this; including working through furlough. We’ve done all we can to prepare and follow national direction."
There was expected to be a flood of reservation attempts from individuals, groups and businesses looking to book permits for popular weekends, or at high-demand entry points into the BWCA.
The Star Tribune notes that the shift to the new system was opposed by many people and businesses near the BWCA, who said it could be a disadvantage to those in areas with spottier internet access.
What's more, there was concern among resorts and outfitters that they might not be able to get their hands on the highly-sought after permits for motorized parts of the wilderness, which previously was decided by a lottery following a 4-week application period
The Ely Echo reports that some business owners had traveled to the Twin Cities so they could get better internet access when the system went live, and many of those complaining of the system crash said they'd warned the Forest Service that this would happen.