Mudflat Stories

If you wanted a real story about mudflats, here you go!

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Misstep turns Alaska fishing trip into a muddy trap

SHIP CREEK: Firefighters help rescue man after slip leaves him stuck in the mud.

Ricky Aguilar didn’t catch anything Sunday afternoon while fishing at Ship Creek. But something reeled him in — Cook Inlet’s famously gooey mud.

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Ricky Aguilar, 22, said he was walking toward the creek when he slipped and slid in. “It was like quicksand,” he said.

Aguilar, 22, found himself waist-deep in the stuff after slipping while walking to a section of the stream near the Port of Anchorage’s small-boat launch.

He almost pulled himself to safety but wound up getting a hand from the Anchorage Fire Department, which responded to a 911 call from someone who saw Aguilar sink into the mud flats.

“I was almost out of there,” Aguilar said minutes after the rescue. “My right foot went in, and I almost got out, but then my left foot got stuck.”

Aguilar sat on an old railroad tie as he spoke, surrounded by his mud-caked belongings — hip waders and boots that had filled with goop as the mud sucked him deeper and deeper, a rod and reel covered with a thick layer of muck, and assorted pieces of wet, dirty clothing.

“I must’ve hit a pothole or something,” Aguilar said. “I was walking down to the (creek) and I slipped and I just slid all the way in. It was like quicksand.”

The dangers of the mud flats are well-known to anyone who has lived in Anchorage for long. Unseen at high tide, they are exposed at low tide and can look dangerously alluring to the unaware, an inviting stretch of land that goes to the water’s edge.

They look safe enough to walk on, but as Aguilar said, they’re like quicksand.

Mike Davidson, an Anchorage Fire Department senior captain at Station 4, said firefighters are called to Ship Creek for mud rescues several times every summer.

“It’s pretty routine during the king salmon season,” he said. “One slip, and the next thing they know, they’re up to their knees in it.”

Tales of the mud flats have an almost urban legend feel to them, but their danger is real. Twenty years ago this summer, a young woman new to Alaska drowned after getting stuck in the mud flats out in Turnagain Arm. She got stuck while the tide was out, but couldn’t get free before it came back in, and the water rose above her head as she stood planted in the mud.

For serious entrapments, the Fire Department uses a hose to blast the mud with water, making it thin enough for the person to escape.

Aguilar didn’t need that kind of help Sunday. Firefighters Chris Cravens and Todd Bowey were able to pull him to safety without turning a hose on the water.

“He was able to get mostly out by himself,” Davidson said.

Though he said he was done fishing for the day — a hot shower beckoned — Aguilar seemed unshaken by the scare. He’d been here before.

“I got stuck there last year, but got out,” he said. “My girlfriend was asking, ‘Want me to call 911?’ and I was like, no!”

It took two hours, but he worked himself free that time. The key, he said, is to not panic, because then you use the energy you need to pull yourself out of the constricting mud.

Davidson offered another piece of advice to anyone who might find trouble on the mud flats.

“If you start getting stuck, lay down and spread your weight out over the mud,” he said, because the heavier something is, the quicker it will sink.

3 responses

16 08 2008
Bill Fikes

When I arrived in Alaska in 1965 my Sister and I delighted in bouncing on the jello like mud flats out by Bird Creek. We would watch as they seemed to turn to quicksand below us and run to the next section before our feet got wet. I’ve gotten slightly smarter since then.

6 09 2008
little debbie

enjoyed the mudflats stories!

8 09 2008
Muda Bentara

nice too meet your blog ….




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