"Quick-sand (kwik sand), noun.
1. A bed of loose sand mixed with water forming a soft,
shifting mass that yields easily to pressure and tends
to engulf any object resting on it surface.
2. Often quicksands, A place or situation into which
entry can be swift and sudden but from which extrication
can be difficult or impossible: "this theory of the
future entrapped [them] in the quicksand's of Vietnam."
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
(From: American Heritage Dictionary)
Earlier this year, I was out prospecting trout streams
that were listed in the Minnesota Trout Stream Registry,
and was doing some spot reconnaissance. When to my
surprise and endangerment, I encountered and became
involved with quicksand. Needless to say I survived
the situation, but it was only by luck and some effort
to remain calm, when your only thought, and instinct
is to struggle and escape. Only by understanding what
quicksand is, and how it comes into being, can you avoid
it, or if in its clutches escape from its perils.
"Sands are loose fragments of minerals or rocks. Smaller
than gravel and larger than silt and clay, sand particles
range from 0.0008 to 0.08 inch in diameter. They are formed
by the abrasion or breakdown of rocks through the action of
water, ice, or air. Sand accumulates in areas where sediments
are transported and deposited, such as in desert and beach
environments. dry sand is blown by the wind. Sand also
occurs in fan-shaped sedimentary deposits at the mouths
of mountain canyons."(From Compton's Encyclopedia)
I was scouting the Hey Creek, near Red Wing, Minnesota,
checking on the makeup of the stream. I found it to be a
narrow creek with very high sandy banks, and the creek bottom
was a mixture of smooth gravel stones, and patches of course sand.
There was many public assess points, and a large portion of Lower
Hey Creek ran thru State Property. The creek was shallow
(about 12" to 18" depth), with a swift and clear water flow.
As I was moving upstream, the creek bed twisted and turned,
I was taking my time to try the pools, and undercuts at each
turn. Periodically I would have to cross over to the other
side to continue on upstream, either because of the underbrush
on top of the banks, or because of the choice areas to present
It was at one of these crossings where the banks on both
side permitted accessible travel, that I encountered the
quicksand. The water upstream was tumbling over a layer
of large stones that were across the creek bed, and below
them was a shallow sandy bottom with a water depth of about
18 inches, and was about 10 feet wide. I started across when
about midstream, I suddenly sank 3 feet into the creek bottom,
causing the water to enter my hip waders and bring the water
up to my chest.
The force of the water, the grip of the sand, prevented any
attempt at my escaping. I found myself facing upstream,
trapped, without a human being within voice range.
The sand encased my legs up to just above the knees, and
the flow of the water was, trying to cause my legs to bend
where they were never meant to bend. The coldness of the
water was a shock to the body, and was rapidly drawing my
body heat away.
Only because I did not panic, do I truly believe that I
survived that day. I realized the problem I was in, and
decide the best course of action was not resistance, but
the opposite. I basically leaned back and floated my
upper body (that was still free of the sand) downstream,
and moving my legs slowly (with as much movement as possible,)
did I extract myself from this deadly trap. By using the
force of the water, and removing the vertical weight of
my body, I was released by the quicksand that held me
immobile for what seemed an eternity, but was more likely
just several minutes.
I drifted downstream, to a place that had smooth stone
bottom, it was there that I halted my progress. I left
the stream, a very cold and wet, tired fly angler,
very grateful to be alive, and not seriously injured.
"Quicksand, any sand that is saturated with water
so that it loses its ability to support weight and behaves
like a liquid; usually found in hollows at the mouths
of large rivers or along flat stretches of streams or beaches."
(From: Compton's Encyclopedia)
That was the end of that days exploring, and after returning
to my car (wet and muscles very sore,) I headed home a wiser
and humbler person. ~ Steven H. McGarthwaite