Green’s Dictionary of Slang

shit creek n.

[fig. use of shit n. (1a) + SE creek]

an unpleasant, problematic situation; usu. in phr. below.

W. Boyd Good Man in Africa 65: He felt sick [...] He'd handled everything so badly, misjudged and miscalculated all round [...] He knew in his heart that shit creek had claimed him this time.
OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. 🌐 shit creek n. a place of misfortune.

In phrases

up shit(’s) creek (also down shit creek without a paddle, in it without a paddle, up salt creek (without a paddle), up shit creek and no paddle, up shit creek in leaky gumboots, up shit creek without a paddle (in a barbed-wire canoe, …in a leaky canoe), up shit creek without a paddle to piss on, up shit crick)

(orig. US) in serious trouble.

Message of the President of the United States and Accompanying Documents to the Two Houses of Congress 480: He, Parker, then said, ‘well, our men put old Lincoln up Shit creek, and we’ll put old Dill up’.
Eve. News (Ada, OK) 6 Apr. n.p.: Some one will start up ‘Salt Creek’ without a paddle.
[US]Out West Oct. 241: ‘Up the flume’ was handed down to us by the forty-niners, as was ‘petered out’; ‘up Salt Creek,’ a synonymous expression, defies research.
[US]E. Hemingway letter 22 Apr. in Baker Sel. Letters (1981) 157: The stuff is so tight and hard and everything hangs on everything else and it would all just be shot up shit creek.
[US] (ref. to late 19C) N. Kimball Amer. Madam (1981) 228: I’d be, as he put it, ‘Up shat [sic] creek and no paddle’.
[US](con. 1900s–10s) Dos Passos 42nd Parallel in USA (1966) 72: We’re up shit creek now for fair.
[US]P.G. Brewster ‘Folk “Sayings” From Indiana’ in AS XIV:4 263: An unlucky person is ‘up Salt Creek without a paddle’.
[US] ‘Peter Pullin’ Blues’ in G. Logsdon Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing (1995) 273: Well it hurt so gawdamned bad that the hard on that I’d had / It was gone and I was stranded up shit crick.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 184/1: Salt creek, up. In a precarious or hopeless position; checkmated; stalemated; in prison; awaiting execution; facing inevitable disaster.
[US]Kerouac letter 24 Feb. in Charters I (1995) 562: I’m really up shit creek.
[UK]G. Lambert Inside Daisy Clover (1966) 191: I had to let Melora know that I was up shit creek [...] without making it clear to this woman just how I’d been left without a paddle.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 166: If Darden took the money [...] He’d be up shit creek without a paddle, in a leaky canoe.
[US]T. Southern Blue Movie (1974) 180: These fucking boogs may turn cannibal at any minute! Then we’d really be up shit creek!
[Aus]D. Ireland Burn 97: Wants to get his hands on her and if he ever does I’ll be up shit creek without a paddle.
[US]D. Goines Daddy Cool (1997) 40: At his age, if he lost this job his ass would be up shit’s creek.
[Aus]D. Maitland Breaking Out 291: Crewe was well and truly right up shit creek in a barbed-wire canoe.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 171: He wouldn’t tell the wrong people, Augie, because his ass would be up shit’s creek if he did.
[UK]P. Barker Liza’s England (1996) 40: Aye and where would you’ve been ’n’all? Up shit creek with your arse hanging out of your britches. That’s where.
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 117/1: up shit creek in leaky gumboots in trouble; variant on being up shit creek without a paddle.
[US](con. c.1970) G. Hasford Phantom Blooper 234: Ain’t nobody gonna give no job to no crazy Veet-Nam veteran. You’re up shit creek without a paddle, boy.
[UK]J. Cameron It Was An Accident 248: He was already up shit creek so fuck it and go for the whole bundle.
[Aus]P. Temple Bad Debts (2012) [ebook] I got to go. I’m further up shit creek if I don’t get to town in about five minutes.
Dean Ween ‘Piss Up a Rope’ 🎵 Now you’re up shits creek with a turd for a paddle / [...] / You can piss up a rope.
[US]T. Fontana ‘Out o' Time’ Oz ser. 3 ep. 8 [TV script] He’d better win, O’Reilly, or you’re up shit’s creek, with no paddle.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 18 May 6: This is the story of my life! Up shit creek without a paddle.
[UK]K. Waterhouse Soho 29: He was in it without a paddle.
[US]‘Randy Everhard’ Tattoo of a Naked Lady 6: I was up shit creek without a paddle to piss on.
[UK]J. Cameron Hell on Hoe Street 217: I reckon you down shit creek without a paddle.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Rosa Marie’s Baby (2013) [ebook] All of a sudden Les was up shit creek.
[Ire]P. Howard PS, I Scored the Bridesmaids 36: You end up totally up shit creek without a no-claims bonus.
[Aus]L. Redhead Thrill City [ebook] My only hope had been the job in Vietnam, but that was up shit creek.
[US]G. Hayward Corruption Officer [ebk] cap. 49: When he came in and sat down our eye contact said it all. We both knew we were up shits creek.
[Aus]C. Hammer Opal Country 436: ‘[I]t sounds like you’re up shit creek’.
[UK]J. Meades Empty Wigs (t/s) 797: ‘Where are we... I lost my bearings...’ ‘I’ll find them... don’t worry.’ She used the Up Sh*t C*eek app on her iPhone [ibid] 803: [W]e were Up Sh*t C*eek - the place not the app... murderers in all but name.