Dad and Daughter Spend 13 Days Canoeing Along Nearly 220 Miles of Minnesota, Canada Border

by Matthew Memrick

Recently, a Minnesota father-daughter canoe trip turned into a 13-day, 220-mile memorable bonding experience along the U.S.-Canada border.

Duluth, Minn.-residents Shaun and Mercedes Floerke took to the Voyageurs’ route along the Minnesota/Ontario border.

The route billed as America’s most-visited wilderness area also mimics how many fur traders took during the 18th century. 

According to the Post-Bulletin, Shaun Floerke, 56, is a former state district court judge. He is now the CEO and president of the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. Seventeen-year-old Mercedes, or Mercy as dad calls her, 17, is a rising high school senior.

The two trekked hard, going from before sunrise and paddling 20 miles a day. According to, the average speed of a two-person canoe is 3 miles per hour. The site estimates a 10-mile trip is going 3.5 hours.

They told the newspaper that they had more hot days with calm water than windy ones. They didn’t bring any tent, opting to go light with hammock camping. After loading up on snacks, they went with pasta, rice, and couscous at night. Shaun Floerke said they would go to be around 9 p.m. and wake up at 4:45 a.m. Canoeing started at 5:15 or 5:30 a.m. 

“It was definitely an adventure,” Mercedes Floerke told the Press-Bulletin. “It wasn’t something to write a book about.”

Dad and Daughter Canoe Trip Was Quiet

The Floerkes agreed they had a great vacation, filled with moments of solitude in the canoe. 

At times, they floated over the Canada border. Interestingly, the border was still closed during their June 26-July 11 journey.

“It seemed whenever we would look to our left (into Canada), we never saw another person the whole way. It was kind of surreal,” Shaun said.

The Floerkes said one early trip day they saw 60 canoes (near Knife River and Knife Lake). After that, they saw one canoe group a day. There’s was lots of social distancing going on.

One wild moment included reporting a forest fire on the Ontario side of Cooked Lake. The two brought a Garmin inReach satellite communication device and used it in the canoe. At one point, they even attempted to put the fire out.

“I’ve made more than 30 trips or more into the wilderness, and I’d never do it again without one,” Shaun Floerke said.

The trip was such a good experience, Mercedes Floerke said another big 2021 canoe trip was in her future. But maybe later in the year with cooler temperatures and fewer bugs.

“I’d do it in the fall,” she told the Post-Bulletin. “And I’d bring more Pop-Tarts.” 

What was the hardest part about the trip? For Mercedes, the high schooler said it was keeping a positive canoe attitude. For her dad, it was the portages. Plus, he said he got a sinus/cold during the trip.