Learn more about Louisiana
 NamesakeLouis XIV, one of France's greatest and most powerful kings. He was called the "Sun King" and "Louis the Great."
The surface of the state may properly be divided into two parts, the uplands, and the alluvial and coast and swamp regions. The alluvial regions, including the low swamps and coast lands, cover an area of about 20,000 square miles (52,000 km²); they lie principally along the Mississippi River, which traverses the state from north to south for a distance of about 600 miles (1,000 km) and ultimately emptying into the Gulf of Mexico, the Red River, the Ouachita River and its branches, and other minor streams. The breadth of the alluvial region along the Mississippi is from 10 to 60 miles (15 to 100 km), and along the other streams it averages about 10 miles (15 km). The Mississippi flows upon a ridge formed by its own deposits, from which the lands incline toward the low swamps beyond at an average fall of six feet per mile (3 m/km). The alluvial lands along other streams present very similar features. These alluvial lands are never inundated save when breaks occur in the levees by which they are protected against the floods of the Mississippi and its tributaries. These floods, however, do not occur anually, and they may be said to be exceptional. With the maintenance of strong levees these alluvial lands would enjoy perpetual immunity from inundation.
The uplands and contiguous hill lands have an area of more than 25,000 square miles (65,000 km²), and they consist of prairie and woodlands. The elevations above sea-level range from 10 feet (3 m) at the coast and swamp lands to 50 and 60 feet (15-18 m) at the prairie and alluvial lands. In the uplands and hills the elevations rise to Driskill Mountain the highest point in the state at only 535 feet (163 m) above sea level. Only two other states in the union, Florida and Delaware, are geographically lower than Louisiana.
Besides the navigable rivers already named (some of which are called bayous), there are the Sabine, forming the western boundary, and the Pearl, the eastern boundary, the Calcasieu, the Mermentau, the Vermilion, the Teche, the Atchafalaya, the Boeuf, the Lafourche, the Courtableau, the D'Arbonne, the Macon, the Tensas, the Amite, the Tchefuncte, the Tickfaw, the Natalbany, and a number of other streams of lesser note, constituting a natural system of navigable waterways, aggregating over 4,000 miles in length, which is unequalled in the United States. The state also has 1,060 square miles (2,745 km²) of land-locked bays, 1,700 square miles (4,400 km²) of inland lakes, and a river surface of over 500 square miles (1,300 km²).
Louisiana has a humid subtropical climate, perhaps the most "classic" example of a humid subtropical climate of all the Southeastern states, with hot summers and mild winters. The subtropical characteristics of the state are due in large part to the influence of the Gulf of Mexico, which even at its farthest point is no more than a couple hundred miles away. Precipitation is frequent throughout the year, although the summer is slightly wetter than the rest of the year, and there is a dip in precipitation in October. Summers in Louisiana are among the most oppressively hot and humid in the United States with high temperatures from mid-June to mid-September averaging 90 °F or more and overnight lows averaging over 70 °F. In the summer, the extreme maximum temperature is much warmer in the north than in the south, with temperatures near the Gulf of Mexico very rarely reaching 100 °F. In northern Louisiana, temperatures can reach above 105 °F in the summer. Temperatures are generally mildly warm in the winter with highs around New Orleans, Baton Rouge, the rest of south Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico averaging 65 °F, while the northern part of the state has average highs of close to 60 °F. The overnight lows in the winter average well above freezing throughout the state, with 45 °F the average near the Gulf and an average low of around 37 °F in the winter in the northern part of the state. Louisiana does have its share of cold fronts which can drop the temperatures below 20 °F on occasion. Snow is not very common near the Gulf of Mexico, although those in the northern parts of the state can expect one or two dustings of snow per year.
Louisiana is often affected by tropical cyclones and is very vulnerable to strikes by major hurricanes, especially the low area around and in the New Orleans area. The area is also prone to frequent thunderstorms, especially in the summer. The entire state averages over 60 days of thunderstorms a year averaging more thunderstorms than any other state except Florida. Louisiana averages 27 tornadoes annually, and the entire state is vulnerable to a tornado strike, with the extreme southern portion of the state slightly less vulnerable than the rest of the state.<ref name= "Annual average number of tornadoes">  NOAA National Climatic Data Center. Retrieved on October 24, 2006. </ref>
The underlying strata of the state are of Cretaceous age and are covered by alluvial deposits of Tertiary and post-Tertiary origin. A large part of Louisiana is the creation and product of the Mississippi River. It was originally covered by an arm of the sea, and has been built up by the silt carried down the valley by the great river.
Owing to the extensive flood control measures along the Mississippi river and to natural subsidence, Louisiana is now suffering the loss of coastal land area. State and federal government efforts to halt or reverse this phenomenon are under way; others are being sought.
 Protected areas
Louisiana contains a number of areas which are, in varying degrees, protected from human intervention. In addition to several stations of the National Park Service, and a federally recognized national forest, Louisiana itself operates, among other programs, a system of state parks and recreation areas throughout the state. Administered by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers System provides a degree of protection for 48 rivers, streams and bayous in the state.
National Park Service
State parks and recreational areas
Louisiana was inhabited by Native Americans when European explorers arrived in the 17th century. Settlement and colonization began in the 18th century. Some current place names, including Atchafalaya, Natchitouches (now spelled Natchitoches), Caddo, Houma, Tangipahoa, and Avoyel (Avoyelles), are from Native American dialects.
Many native tribes inhabited the region (using current parish boundaries to describe approximate locations):<ref>Sturdevent, William C. (1967): Early Indian Tribes, Cultures, and Linguistic Stocks, Smithsonian Institution Map (Eastern United States).</ref>
 Exploration and settlement
The first European explorers to visit Louisiana came in 1528. The Spanish expedition (led by Panfilo de Narváez) located the mouth of the Mississippi River. In 1541, Hernando de Soto's expedition crossed the region. Then Spanish interest in Louisiana lay dormant. In the late 17th century, French expeditions, which included sovereign, religious and commercial aims, established a foothold on the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast. With its first settlements, France lay claim to a vast region of North America and set out to establish a commercial empire and French nation stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada.
The French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle named the region Louisiana to honor France's King Louis XIV in 1682. The first permanent settlement, Fort Maurepas (at what is now Ocean Springs, Mississippi, near Biloxi), was founded by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, a French military officer from Canada, in 1699.
The French colony of Louisiana originally claimed all the land on both sides of the Mississippi River and north to French territory in Canada. The following States were part of Louisiana: Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.
The settlement of Natchitoches (along the Red River in present-day northwest Louisiana) was established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, making it the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase territory. The French settlement had two purposes: to establish trade with the Spanish in Texas, and to deter Spanish advances into Louisiana. Also, the northern terminus of the Old San Antonio Road (sometimes called El Camino Real, or Kings Highway) was at Natchitoches. The settlement soon became a flourishing river port and crossroads, giving rise to vast cotton kingdoms along the river. Over time, planters developed large plantations and built fine homes in a growing town, a pattern repeated in New Orleans and other places.
Louisiana's French settlements contributed to further exploration and outposts, concentrated along the banks of the Mississippi and its major tributaries, from Louisiana to as far north as the region called the Illinois Country, around Peoria, Illinois and present-day St. Louis, Missouri. See also: French colonization of the Americas
Initially Mobile, Alabama and Biloxi, Mississippi functioned as the capital of the colony; recognizing the importance of the Mississippi River to trade and military interests, France made New Orleans the seat of civilian and military authority in 1722. From then until the Louisiana Purchase made the region part of the United States on December 20, 1803, France and Spain would trade control of the region's colonial empire.
Most of the territory to the east of the Mississippi was lost to the Kingdom of Great Britain in the French and Indian War, except for the area around New Orleans and the parishes around Lake Pontchartrain. The rest of Louisiana became a colony of Spain after the Seven Years' War by the Treaty of Paris of 1763.
During the period of Spanish rule, several thousand French-speaking refugees from the region of Acadia (now Nova Scotia, Canada) made their way to Louisiana following British expulsion; settling largely in the southwestern Louisiana, the Acadian refugees were welcomed by the Spanish, and descendants came to be called Cajuns.
Then in 1803, Bonaparte sold the territory to the United States, which (see Louisiana Purchase) divided it into two territories: the Orleans Territory (which became the state of Louisiana in 1812) and the District of Louisiana (which consisted of all the land not included in Orleans Territory). The Florida Parishes were annexed from the short-lived and strategically important West Florida Republic by proclamation of President James Madison in 1810.
The western boundary of Louisiana with Spanish Texas remained in dispute until the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1819, with the Sabine Free State serving as a neutral buffer zone as well as a haven for criminals. Also called "No Man's Land," this part of central and southwestern Louisiana was settled in part by a mixed-race people known as Redbones, whose origins are the subject of ongoing debate.
Louisiana was a slave state. It also had one of the largest free black populations in the United States.(see slavery) In the American Civil War, Louisiana seceded from the Union on January 26, 1861. New Orleans was captured by Federal troops on April 25, 1862. Because a large part of the population had Union sympathies (or compatible commercial interests), the Federal government took the unusual step of designating the areas of Louisiana under federal control as a state within the Union, with its own elected representatives to the U.S. Congress.
As of July 2005 (pre-Katrina/Rita), Louisiana has an estimated population of 4,523,628, which is an increase of 16,943, or 0.4%, from the prior year and an increase of 54,670, or 1.2%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 129,889 people (that is 350,818 births minus 220,929 deaths) and a decrease due to net migration of 69,373 people out of the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 20,174 people, and migration within the country produced a net loss of 89,547 people.
As of 2003, the state's population included approximately 215,000 native French-speakers.
Official Census statistics do not distinguish among people of African ancestry. Consequently, no distinction is made between those in Lousiana of English-speaking African-American heritage and those who consider themselves Franco-African or Créole, though their respective cultural identities may be quite different.
Franco-Africans and African-American blacks, who made up a majority of the state's population during much of the 19th century, dominate much of the southeast, central, and northern parts of the state, particularly those parishes along the Mississippi River valley. But in recent years, the percentage of whites in those areas has grown, as large numbers of white senior citizens have begun to relocate there because of the friendly atmosphere, mild winters, and beautiful scenery.
Creoles (of West African, French and/or Spanish ancestry) and Cajuns of French Canadian ancestry are dominant in much of the southern part of the state. Whites of Southern U.S. background predominate in northern Louisiana.
There are several unique dialects of both French and English spoken in Louisiana. First, there are two unique dialects of the French language: Cajun French and Louisiana Creole French. There are also two unique dialects of the English language: Cajun English (a French-influenced variety of English) and what is informally known as Yat (which resembles the New York City dialect, particularly that of Brooklyn).
Like the other Southern states, Louisiana is mostly Protestant; however, there is also a large native Catholic population in the state, particularly in the southern part of the state, which makes Louisiana unique among Southern states. The current religious affiliations of the people of Louisiana are shown in the table below:
A number of cities in Louisiana are also home to Jewish communities, notably Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans.<ref>Isaacs, Ronald H. The Jewish Information Source Book: A Dictionary and Almanac. Jason Aronson, Inc., Northvale, NJ, 1993. p. 202.</ref> The most significant of these is the Jewish community of the New Orleans area, with a pre-Katrina population of about 12,000.
The total gross state product in 2003 for Louisiana was US$140 billion. Its per capita personal income was US$26,312, forty-third in the United States.
The state's principal agricultural outputs include seafood (It is the biggest producer of crawfish in the world), cotton, soybeans, cattle, sugarcane, poultry and eggs, dairy products, and rice. Its industrial outputs include chemical products, petroleum and coal products, food processing, transportation equipment, paper products, and tourism.
Louisiana has 3 personal income tax brackets, ranging from 2% to 6%. The sales tax rate is 4%: a 3.97% Louisiana sales tax and a .03% Louisiana Tourism Promotion District sales tax. Political subdivisions also levy their own sales tax in addition to the state fees. The state also has a use tax, which includes 4% to be distributed by the Department of Revenue to local governments. Property taxes are assessed and collected at the local level.
 Law and government
The current Louisiana governor is Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (Democrat), and its two U.S. senators are Mary Landrieu (Democrat) and David Vitter (Republican). Louisiana has seven Members of the House of Representatives: five Republicans and two Democrats.
The Louisiana political and legal structure has held over several elements from the time of French governance. The first is the use of the term "parish" in place of "county" for an administrative subdivision. The second is the legal system. Louisiana is the only American state whose legal system is based on civil law, which is based on French and Spanish codes and ultimately Roman law, as opposed to English common law, which is based on precedent and custom. Louisiana thus follows the system of most non-Anglophone countries in the world. It is incorrect to equate the Louisiana Civil Code with the Napoleonic Code: although the Napoleonic Code strongly influenced Louisiana law, it was never in force in Louisiana, as it was enacted in 1804, after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. While the Louisiana Civil Code of 1870 has been continuously revised and updated since its enactment, it is still considered the controlling authority in the state.
Great differences still exist between Louisianian civil law and the common law found in the other U.S. states. While some of these differences have been bridged due to the strong influence of common law in the United States, it is important to note that the "civilian" tradition is still deeply rooted in most aspects of Louisiana private law. Thus property, contractual, business entities structure, much of civil procedure, and family law are still mostly based on traditional Roman legal thinking. In contrast, criminal law is entirely based on the Anglo-American common law.
Louisiana is unique among U.S. states in its method for state, local, and congressional elections. All candidates, regardless of party affiliation, run in an open primary on Election Day. If no candidate has more than 50% of the vote, the two candidates with the highest vote total compete in a runoff election approximately one month later. This runoff does not take into account party identification; therefore, it is not uncommon for a Democrat to be in a runoff with a fellow Democrat or a Republican to be in a runoff with a fellow Republican. All other states use single-party primaries followed by a general election between party candidates, each conducted by either a plurality voting system or runoff voting, to elect Senators, Representatives, and statewide officials.
Louisiana has a statewide police force, the Louisiana State Police. It began in 1922 and its motto is "courtesy, loyalty, service." Its troopers have statewide jurisdiction with power to enforce all laws of the state, including city and parish ordinances. Each year, they patrol over 12 million miles (20 million km) of roadway and arrest about 10,000 impaired drivers. Troopers are also responsible for investigating the casino and gaming industry, all hazardous material incidents, anti-terrorism training and general criminal, narcotics and insurance fraud investigations.
Each parish in Louisiana has an elected sheriff, with the exception of Orleans Parish. It has two elected sheriffs - one criminal and one civil. The sheriffs are responsible for general law enforcement in their respective parish. Orleans Parish is also an exception to this rule, as here the general law enforcement duties fall to the New Orleans Police Department. The sheriff also controls and manages the parish jail and/or correctional facility. The sheriff is also the tax collector for each parish. In 2006 a bill was passed which will consolidate the two sheriffs' departments into one in 2010.
Most parishes are governed by a Police Jury. Eighteen of the sixty-four parishes are governed under an alternative form of government under a Home Rule Charter. They oversee the parish budget and operate the parish maintenance services. This includes parish road maintenance and other rural services.
 Parishes, urban areas and villages
 Sports teams
As of 2005 Louisiana is nominally the least populous state with more than one major professional sports league franchise: the New Orleans Hornets and the National Football League's New Orleans Saints.
The ancestors of Creoles came to Louisiana before the Louisiana Purchase (1803) from Western Europe France, Germany, Spain, and from Senegal (West Africa) and settled along the major waterways in the State. The blending of these disparate lifestyles is called "Creole" and continued as the dominant cultural, social, economic and political lifestyle of Louisiana well into the 20th century when it would finally be overtaken by the Anglo-American mainstream.
The ancestors of the Cajuns are the Acadians, a French-speaking people of what are now New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada. When the British won the French and Indian War, the British forcibly separated families and evicted them because of their long-stated political neutrality. Most captured Acadians were placed in internment camps in England and the New England colonies for 10 to 30 years. Many of those who escaped the British remained in French Canada. Once freed by England, many scattered, some to France, Canada, Mexico, the Falkland Islands, with the majority finding final refuge in south Louisiana centered in the region around Lafayette and the LaFourche Bayou country. Until the 1970s, Cajuns were often considered lower class citizens with the term "Cajun" being derogatory. But, once flush with oil and gas riches, Cajun culture, food, music and their infectious "joie de vivre" lifestyle quickly gained international acclaim.
There is also a distinct Spanish-descended group in Louisiana. The Isleños are direct descendants of Canary Islanders who migrated to Louisiana under the Spanish crown beginning in the mid-1770s. There were intended to help guard the eastern approaches to New Orleans from invasion by the British. They settled in what is modern-day St. Bernard Parish, in the river passes east of the city, along an old mouth of the Mississippi River which they named Terre aux Bœufs (literally "Land of Cattle" for the cattle living there). Many of their descendants remained insulated from the city, and continued to speak an archaic version of Spanish well into the 20th century. They still maintain contacts with the Canary Islands, and have an annual "Caldo" festival named for a native dish.
 See also
 External links
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