Geography of Louisiana

Learn Facts about the U.S. State of Louisiana

Balconies of the French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Balconies of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana. Medioimages/Photodisc/Getty Images

Capital: Baton Rouge
Population: 4,523,628 (2005 estimate prior to Hurricane Katrina)
Largest Cities: New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Lafayette and Lake Charles
Area: 43,562 square miles (112,826 sq km)
Highest Point: Mount Driskill at 535 feet (163 m)
Lowest Point: New Orleans at -5 feet (-1.5 m)

Louisiana is a state located in the southeastern portion of the United States between Texas and Mississippi and south of Arkansas.

It features a distinct multicultural population that was influenced by French, Spanish and African peoples during the 18th century due to colonization and slavery. Louisiana was the 18th state to join the U.S. on April 30, 1812. Prior to its statehood, Louisiana was a former Spanish and French colony.

Today, Louisiana is most known for its multicultural events such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans, its Cajun culture, as well as its economy based on fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. As such, Louisiana was severely impacted (like all Gulf of Mexico states) by a large oil spill off of its coast in April 2010. In addition, Louisiana is prone to natural disasters like hurricanes and flooding and has recently been hit by several large hurricanes in recent years. The largest of these was Hurricane Katrina which was a category three hurricane when it made landfall on August 29, 2005. 80% of New Orleans was flooded during Katrina and more than two million people were displaced in the region.



The following is a list of important things to know about Louisiana, provided in an effort to educate readers about this fascinating U.S. state.

  1. Louisiana was first explored by Cabeza de Vaca in 1528 during a Spanish expedition. The French then began exploring the region in the 1600s and in 1682, Robert Cavelier de la Salle arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi River and claimed the area for France. He named the area Louisiana after the French king, King Louis XIV.
  1. Throughout the rest of the 1600s and into the 1700s, Louisiana was colonized by both the French and Spanish but it was dominated by the Spanish during this time. During Spain's control of Louisiana, agriculture grew and New Orleans became a major trading port. In addition, during the early 1700s, Africans were brought to the region as slaves.
  2. In 1803, the U.S. took control of Louisiana after the Louisiana Purchase. In 1804 the land purchased by the U.S. was divided into a southern part called the Territory of Orleans which eventually became the state of Louisiana in 1812 when it was admitted into the union. After becoming a state, Louisiana continued being influenced by French and Spanish culture. This is shown today in the state's multicultural nature and the various languages spoken there.
  3. Today, unlike other states in the U.S., Louisiana is divided into parishes. These are local government divisions that are equivalent to counties in other states. Jefferson Parish is the largest parish-based on population while Cameron Parish is the largest by land area. Louisiana currently has 64 parishes.
  4. Louisiana's topography consists of relatively flat lowlands located on the coastal plain of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River's alluvial plain. The highest point in Louisiana is along its border with Arkansas but it still below 1,000 feet (305 m). The main waterway in Louisiana is the Mississippi and the state's coast is full of slow-moving bayous. Large lagoons and oxbox lakes, like Lake Ponchartrain, are also common in the state.
  1. Louisiana's climate is considered humid subtropical and its coast is rainy. As a result, it contains many biodiverse marshes. Louisiana's inland areas are drier and are dominated by low prairies and low rolling hills. Average temperatures vary based on location within the state and the northern regions are colder in the winters and hotter in the summers than those areas closer to the Gulf of Mexico.
  2. Louisiana's economy is heavily dependent on its fertile soils and waters. Because much of the state's land sits on rich alluvial deposits, it is the U.S.'s largest producer of sweet potatoes, rice, and sugarcane. Soybeans, cotton, dairy products, strawberries, hay, pecans, and vegetables are also abundant in the state. In addition, Louisiana is well-known for its fishing industry that is dominated by shrimp, menhaden (mostly used to make fishmeal for poultry) and oysters.
  1. Tourism is also a large part of Louisiana's economy. New Orleans is especially popular due to its history and the French Quarter. That location has many famous restaurants, architecture and is the home of the Mardi Gras festival which has been held there since 1838.
  2. The population of Louisiana is dominated by Creole and Cajun peoples of French ancestry. Cajuns in Louisiana are descended from French colonists from Acadia in what were the present-day Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Cajuns are mainly settled in southern Louisiana and as a result, French is a common language in the region. Creole is the name given to people born to French settlers in Louisiana when it was still a colony of France.
  3. Louisiana is home to some of the most famous universities in the U.S. Some of these include Tulane and Loyola Universities in New Orleans and the University of Louisiana in Lafayette.

References

Infoplease.com. (n.d.). Louisiana - Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/us/A0830418.html

State of Louisiana. (n.d.). Louisiana.gov - Explore. Retrieved from: http://www.louisiana.gov/Explore/About_Louisiana/

Wikipedia. (2010, May 12). Louisiana - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana