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mid-15c., creke "narrow inlet in a coastline," altered from kryk (early 13c.; in place names from 12c.), probably from Old Norse kriki "corner, nook," perhaps influenced by Anglo-French crique, itself from a Scandinavian source via Norman. Perhaps ultimately related to crook and with an original notion of "full of bends and turns" (cf. dialectal Swedish krik "corner, bend; creek, cove").
Extended to "inlet or short arm of a river" by 1570s, which probably led to use for "small stream, brook" in American English (1620s). Also used there and in Canada, Australia, New Zealand for "branch of a main river," possibly from explorers moving up main rivers and seeing and noting mouths of tributaries without knowing they often were extensive rivers of their own. Slang phrase up the creek "in trouble," often especially "pregnant," first recorded 1941, perhaps originally armed forces slang for "lost while on patrol."
Indian tribe or confederation, 1725, named for creek, the geographical feature, and abbreviated from Ochese Creek Indians, from the place in Georgia where English first encountered them. Native name is Muskogee, a word of uncertain origin.
(Variation: without a paddle may be added) In serious difficulty; very unfortunate; ruined: Then you guys'll be up the creek for good
[entry form 1937+, perhaps related to the early 1800s term up Salt River, of much the same meaning, and which may refer to the Salt River in Kentucky, a legendary abode of violent and brutal people; but the term is attested in British armed forces use without US attribution fr the early 1900s]