“Can You Canoe?” with The Okee Dokee Brothers

3-minute read + videos

Ready for a fun canoe video or two? The Okee Dokee Brothers canoed the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to St. Louis, writing the songs for their album Can You Canoe? along the way (you might recognize their paddles!).

The Okee Dokee Brothers with Bending Branches paddles and their canoe on a sand spit

Joe and Justin are the Okee Dokee Brothers

Who are The Okee Dokee Brothers?

Lifelong pals Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander are The Okee Dokee Brothers. The two grew up together in Colorado. As their website says, they “record and perform family music with a goal to inspire children and their parents to step outside and get creative.”

Four of their albums have won Grammy Awards for “Best Children’s Album” including Can You Canoe? They’ve been covered in dozens of media publications including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NPR, Outside and Sierra Club. Their latest release, Brambletown, will soon be released as a short film.

Learn more about them, their music and where you can see them perform on their website: OkeeDokee.org.

Creating Music While Canoeing the River

In 2011 the duo canoed and camped the Mississippi River for a month, writing songs along the way that would become their Grammy Award-winning album Can You Canoe? They were accompanied by two other men who guided, shot footage, engineered sound and helped out with other tasks for both their trip and music goals.

Okee Dokee Bros playing with a drummer and bassist next to the Mississippi River

A riverside jam

“Justin and I came up with this idea for a trip that it’d be really nice to get out there on the river with no distractions to write some songs and make some art while spending 30 days on the river,” said Joe.

Their title song is Can You Canoe?—“Can you canoe on a little boat built for two?” It’s a charming representation of the songs they write for kids and families in their American folk/Bluegrass style.

Watch their music video below for the title song:

Inspired By the Mighty Mississippi

The team shot a bit of footage up at the Mississippi’s headwaters at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota to show this mighty river’s small beginnings. Then the main section of their trip was canoeing from Minneapolis, Minnesota to St. Louis, Missouri, some 500 miles.

As lifelong adventurers and nature lovers, the two men paid close attention to the wildlife around them. Pelicans, turtles, fireflies, frogs and flying Asian carp all made it into their songs and videos. As they got further downriver they started to meet much bigger modes of transportation including paddleboats, huge barges, a wide variety of motor boats and many trains. All part of the river experience.

Their song titles from the album reflect these experiences and sights while paddling America’s largest river:

  • The Bullfrog Opera
  • Campin’ Tent
  • Along for the Ride
  • Muddy River
  • Thousand Star Hotel and more

Okee Dokee bros press photo, in canoe on sand spit

Verse two of their title song encapsulates part of what so many of us love about canoeing and canoe trips:

We don’t need no outlets, we don’t need no wires
Primetime entertainment will be lightnin’ bugs and fires
Let’s just keep it simple, unplugged and outside
Sound waves on the water don’t need to be amplified
(“Can You Canoe?” © The Okee Dokee Brothers)

Here’s a link to their Field Journal: Mississippi Edition for fun details about each song on the album. You can watch the full 40-minute video of their Mississippi adventure below. It’s part descriptive of their month-long canoe trip and part fun family entertainment:

We’re thrilled that Joe and Justin were able to make good use of a couple of sturdy Bending Branches canoe paddles on their Mississippi River trip!

And it looks like they made it back to the headwaters recently! From their Facebook page this summer (2023):

Facebook post of Okee Dokee Brothers at Mississippi River headwaters

Photos and videos courtesy of The Okee Dokee Brothers. You can follow them on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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