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Up the creek vs Up the river

up the creek —(sl.) facing problems; in trouble (also: up the creek without a paddle):

  • If that person is on vacation or otherwise not reachable, I am up-the-creek.

up the river—(U.S. Underworld) in prison:

  • Gary was up the river for a couple of years, but that doesn’t make him a criminal, does it?

Note: The expression is not antonymous in meaning to the phrase down the river—(sl.) in the past; over and done with:

  • True enough, I used to hustle a little beer in the old days—but that’s all down the river.