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State Guide

The State of Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. The capital of Louisiana is Baton Rouge. The largest city and metropolitan area is New Orleans. The largest parish by population is Jefferson Parish, and the largest by land area is Cameron Parish. Louisiana is the only state divided into parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties.

Some Louisiana urban environments have a multicultural, multilingual heritage, so strongly influenced by an admixture of 18th century French, Spanish and African cultures that they are something exceptional in the USA. As a matter of fact, before the American influx and statehood at the beginning of the 19th century, the territory of current Louisiana State had been a Spanish and French colony.


Louisiana (New France) was named after Louis XIV, King of France from 1643-1715. When René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle claimed the territory drained by the Mississippi River for France, he named it La Louisiane, meaning "Land of Louis". Louisiana was once part of the Louisiana Territory which stretched from present-day New Orleans north to the present-day Canadian border. The territory was acquired in 1803 by the United States by the Louisiana Purchase. Part or all of 15 states were formed from the territory.

An alternative explanation of the name is that Louisiana is a combination of Louis XIV and his wife Anna of Austria. This, however, is false. While his mother was Anne of Austria, Louis XIV was married to Marie-Thérèse.



Louisiana is bordered to the west by the state of Texas; to the north by Arkansas; to the east by the state of Mississippi; and to the south by the Gulf of Mexico.

The surface of the state may properly be divided into two parts, the uplands and the alluvial, including 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 empties 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 rivers, it averages about 10 miles (15 km) across. The Mississippi River flows upon a ridge formed by its own deposits, from which the lands decline toward the low swamps beyond at an average fall of six feet per mile (3 m/km). The alluvial lands along other streams present similar features.

The higher lands and contiguous hill lands of the north and northwestern part of the state have an area of more than 25,000 square miles (65,000 km²). 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. Several other states, such as Kansas and Nebraska, are geographically flatter.

Besides the navigable rivers already named (some of which are called bayous), there are the Sabine (Sah-BEAN), forming the western boundary; and the Pearl, the eastern boundary; the Calcasieu (KAL-cah-shoe), the Mermentau, the Vermilion, the Teche, the Atchafalaya, the Boeuf (beff), the Lafourche (Luff-OOSH), the Courtableau, the D'Arbonne, the Macon, the Tensas (TEN-saw), the Amite, the Tchefuncte (CHA-Funk-ta), 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 (6,400 km) in length. These waterways are unequaled in any other state of the nation. 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 (Koppen climate classification Cfa), perhaps the most "classic" example of a humid subtropical climate of all the Southeastern states, with long, hot, humid summers and short, 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 200 miles (320 km) away. Precipitation is frequent throughout the year, although the summer is slightly wetter than the rest of the year. There is a dip in precipitation in October. Southern Louisiana receives far more copious rainfall, especially during the winter months. Summers in Louisiana are hot and humid, with high temperatures from mid-June to mid-September averaging 90 °F (32 °C) or more and overnight lows averaging above 70 °F (22 °C). In the summer, the extreme maximum temperature is much warmer in the north than in the south, with temperatures near the Gulf of Mexico occasionally reaching 100 °F (38 °C), although temperatures above 95 °F (35 °C) are commonplace. In northern Louisiana, the temperatures reach above 105 °F (41 °C) in the summer.

Temperatures are generally mildly warm in the winter in the southern part of the state, with highs around New Orleans, Baton Rouge, the rest of south Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico averaging 66 °F (19 °C), while the northern part of the state is mildly cool in the winter with highs averaging 59 °F (15 °C). The overnight lows in the winter average well above freezing throughout the state, with 46 °F (8 °C) the average near the Gulf and an average low of 37 °F (3 °C) in the winter in the northern part of the state. Louisiana does have its share of cold fronts, which frequently drop the temperatures below 20 °F (-8 °C) in the northern part of the state, but almost never do so in the southern part of the state. Snow is not very common near the Gulf of Mexico, although those in the northern parts of the state can expect one to three snowfalls per year, with the frequency increasing northwards.

Louisiana is often affected by tropical cyclones and is very vulnerable to strikes by major hurricanes, particularly the lowlands around and in the New Orleans area. The unique geography of the region with the many bayous, marshes and inlets can make major hurricanes especially destructive. 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. The entire state is vulnerable to a tornado strike, with the extreme southern portion of the state slightly less than the rest of the state. Tornadoes are much more common from January to March in the southern part of the state, and from February through March in the northern part of the state.


  • September 24, 2005, Rita (Category 3 at landfall) struck southwestern Louisiana, flooding many parishes and cities along the coast, including Cameron Parish, Lake Charles, and other towns. The storm's winds further weakened the damaged levees in New Orleans and caused renewed flooding in parts of the city.
  • August 29, 2005, Katrina (Category 4 at landfal) struck and devastated southeastern Louisiana, while breached and undermined levees in New Orleans allowed 80% of the city to flood. Most people had been evacuated but the majority of the population was homeless. The city was virtually closed until October. It is estimated that more than two million people in the Gulf region were displaced by the hurricane, and more than 1,500 fatalities resulted in Louisiana alone. Public outcry criticized governments at the local, state, and federal levels, citing that preparation and response was neither fast nor adequate.
  • August 1992, Andrew (Category 3 at landfall) struck south-central Louisiana. It killed four people; knocked out power to nearly 150,000 citizens; and destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars of crops in the state.
  • August 1969, Camille (Category 5) caused a 23.4 ft (7.1 m). storm surge and killed 250 people. Although Camille officially made landfall in Mississippi and the worst impacts were felt there, it also had effects in Louisiana. New Orleans was spared the brunt of the storm and remained dry, with the exception of mild rain-generated flooding in the most low-lying areas.
  • September 9, 1965, Betsy (Category 3 at landfall) came ashore in Louisiana, causing massive destruction as the first hurricane in history to cause one billion dollars in damage (over ten billion in inflation-adjusted USD). The storm hit New Orleans particularly hard by flooding approximately 35% of the city (including the Lower 9th Ward, Gentilly, and parts of Mid-City), and pushing the death toll in the state to 76.
  • June 1957, Audrey (Category 4) devastated southwest Louisiana, destroying or severely damaging 60–80 percent of the homes and businesses from Cameron to Grand Chenier. 40,000 people were left homeless and over 300 people were killed in the state.


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.

Near the coast, there are many salt domes, where salt is mined and oil is often found. Salt domes also exist in North Louisiana.

Due both to extensive flood control measures along the Mississippi River and natural subsidence, Louisiana is now suffering the loss of coastal land area. State and federal government efforts to halt or reverse this phenomenon are underway; others are being sought. There is one bright spot, however; the Atchafalaya River is creating new delta land in the South-Central portion of the state. This active delta lobe also indicates that the Mississippi is seeking a new path to the Gulf. Much engineering effort is devoted to keeping the river near its traditional route, as the state's economy and shipping depends on it.

Geographic and statistical areas

  • List of parishes in Louisiana
  • Louisiana census statistical areas
  • Louisiana metropolitan areas
  • List of cities, towns, and villages in Louisiana
  • Louisiana locations by per capita income

Louisiana is the only state in the US that has parishes instead of counties.

Protected areas

Louisiana contains a number of areas which are, in varying degrees, protected from human intervention. In addition to National Park Service sites and areas and a United States National Forest, Louisiana operates 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

Historic or scenic areas managed, protected, or otherwise recognized by the National Park Service include:

  • Cane River National Heritage Area near Natchitoches;
  • Cane River Creole National Historical Park near Natchitoches;
  • Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, headquartered in New Orleans, with units in St. Bernard Parish, Barataria (Crown Point), and Acadiana (Lafayette);
  • New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park;
  • Poverty Point National Monument at Epps, Louisiana; and
  • Saline River/Bayou, a designated National Wild and Scenic River near Winn Parish in northern Louisiana.

US Forest Service

  • Kisatchie National Forest is Louisiana's only national forest. It includes several hundred thousand acres in central and north Louisiana.

State parks and recreational areas

Louisiana operates a system of 19 state parks, 16 state historic sites and one state preservation area.


Interstate Highways

  • Interstate 10
  • Interstate 12
  • Interstate 20
  • Interstate 49
  • Interstate 55
  • Interstate 59
  • Interstate 110
  • Interstate 210
  • Interstate 220
  • Interstate 310
  • Interstate 510
  • Interstate 610
  • Interstate 910

United States highways

  • U.S. Route 11
  • U.S. Route 51
  • U.S. Route 61
  • U.S. Route 63
  • U.S. Route 65
  • U.S. Route 71
  • U.S. Route 79
  • U.S. Route 80
  • U.S. Route 84
  • U.S. Route 90
  • U.S. Route 165
  • U.S. Route 167
  • U.S. Route 171
  • U.S. Route 190
  • U.S. Route 371
  • U.S. Route 425

The Intracoastal Waterway is an important means of transporting commercial goods such as petroleum and petroleum products, agricultural produce, building materials and manufactured goods.


Early settlement

Louisiana was inhabited by Native Americans when European explorers arrived in the 17th century. Many place names in the state are transliterations of those used in Native American dialects. Tribes that inhabited what is now Louisiana included the Atakapa, the Opelousa, the Acolapissa, the Tangipahoa, and the Chitimacha in the southeast of the state; the Washa, the Chawasha, the Yagenechito, the Bayougoula and the Houma (part of the Choctaw nation), the Quinipissa, the Okelousa, the Avoyel, the Taensa (part of the Natchez nation), the Tunica, and the Koroa. Central and northwest Louisiana was home to a substantial portion of the Caddo nation and the Natchitoches confederacy, consisting of the Natchitoches, the Yatasi, the Nakasa, the Doustioni, the Quachita, and the Adai.[6]

Exploration and colonization by Europeans

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. By then the French had also built a small fort at the mouth of the Mississippi at a settlement they named La Balise (or La Balize), "seamark" in French. By 1721 they built a 62-foot (19 m) wooden lighthouse-type structure to guide ships on the river.

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 European 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 United States acquired the territory in the Louisiana Purchase on December 20, 1803, France and Spain traded control of the region's colonial empire.

In the 1720s, German immigrants settled along the Mississippi River in a region referred to as the German Coast.

France ceded most of its territory to the east of the Mississippi to Great Britain in the aftermath of the Seven Years' War or French and Indian War, as it was known in North America. It retained 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 after the Seven Years' War. They settled chiefly in the southwestern Louisiana region now called Acadiana. The Spanish, eager to gain more Catholic settlers, welcomed the Acadian refugees. Cajuns descend from these Acadian refugees.

Spanish Canary Islanders, called Isleños, emigrated from the Canary Islands of Spain to Louisiana under the Spanish crown between 1778 and 1783.

In 1800, France's Napoleon Bonaparte acquired Louisiana from Spain in the Treaty of San Ildefonso, an arrangement kept secret for two years.

Purchase by the United States

When the United States won its independence from Great Britain in 1783, one of its major concerns was having a European power on its western boundary, and the need for unrestricted access to the Mississippi River. As American settlers pushed west, they found that the Appalachian Mountains provided a barrier to shipping goods eastward. The easiest way to ship produce was to use a flatboat to float it down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to the port of New Orleans, from where goods could be put on ocean-going vessels. The problem with this route was that the Spanish owned both sides of the Mississippi below Natchez. Napoleon's ambitions in Louisiana involved the creation of a new empire centered on the Caribbean sugar trade. By terms of the Treaty of Amiens of 1800, Great Britain returned ownership of the islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe to the French. Napoleon looked upon Louisiana as a depot for these sugar islands, and as a buffer to U.S. settlement. In October of 1801 he sent a large military force to retake the important island of Santo Domingo, lost in a slave revolt in the 1790s. Defeated by Haitian revolutionaries, Napoleon decided to sell Louisiana.

Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, was disturbed by Napoleon's plans to re-establish French colonies in America. With the possession of New Orleans, Napoleon could close the Mississippi to U.S. commerce at any time. Jefferson authorized Robert R. Livingston, U.S. Minister to France, to negotiate for the purchase of the City of New Orleans, portions of the east bank of the Mississippi, and free navigation of the river for U.S. commerce. Livingston was authorized to pay up to $2 million.

An official transfer of Louisiana to French ownership had not yet taken place, and Napoleon's deal with the Spanish was a poorly kept secret on the frontier. On October 18, 1802, however, Juan Ventura Morales, Acting Intendant of Louisiana, made public the intention of Spain to revoke the right of deposit at New Orleans for all cargo from the United States. The closure of this vital port to the United States caused anger and consternation. Commerce in the west was virtually blockaded. Historians believe that the revocation of the right of deposit was prompted by abuses of the Americans, particularly smuggling, and not by French intrigues as was believed at the time. President Jefferson ignored public pressure for war with France, and appointed James Monroe special envoy to Napoleon, to assist in obtaining New Orleans for the United States. Jefferson also raised the authorized expenditure to $10 million.

On April 11, 1803, Talleyrand, the French Foreign Minister, asked Robert Livingston how much the United States was prepared to pay for the entirety of Louisiana. Livingston was confused, as his instructions only covered the purchase of New Orleans and the immediate area, not the entire territory. James Monroe agreed with Livingston that Napoleon might withdraw this offer at any time. To wait for approval from President Jefferson might take months, so Livingston and Monroe decided to open negotiations immediately.

By April 30, they closed a deal for the purchase of the entire 828,000 square miles (2.145×106 km²) Louisiana territory for 60 million Francs (approximately $15 million). Part of this sum was used to forgive debts owed by France to the United States. The payment was made in United States bonds, which Napoleon sold at face value to the Dutch firm of Hope and Company, and the British banking house of Baring, at a discount of 87 1/2 per each $100 unit. As a result, France received only $8,831,250 in cash for Louisiana. Dutiful banker Alexander Baring conferred with Marbois in Paris, shuttled to the United States to pick up the bonds, took them to Britain, and returned to France with the money - and Napoleon used these funds to wage war against Baring's own country.

When news of the purchase reached the United States, Jefferson was surprised. He had authorized the expenditure of $10 million for a port city, and instead received treaties committing the government to spend $15 million on a land package which would double the size of the country. Jefferson's political opponents in the Federalist Party argued that the Louisiana purchase was a worthless desert, and that the Constitution did not provide for the acquisition of new land or negotiating treaties without the consent of the Senate. What really worried the opposition was the new states which would inevitably be carved from the Louisiana territory, strengthening Western and Southern interests in Congress, and further reducing the influence of New England Federalists in national affairs. President Jefferson was an enthusiastic supporter of westward expansion, and held firm in his support for the treaty. Despite Federalist objections, the U.S. Senate ratified the Louisiana treaty in the autumn of 1803.

A transfer ceremony was held in New Orleans on November 29, 1803. Since the Louisiana territory had never officially been turned over to the French, the Spanish took down their flag, and the French raised theirs. The following day, General James Wilkinson accepted possession of New Orleans for the United States. A similar ceremony was held in St. Louis on March 9, 1804, when a French tricolor was raised near the river, replacing the Spanish national flag. The following day, Captain Amos Stoddard of the First U.S. Artillery marched his troops into town and had the American flag run up the fort's flagpole. The Louisiana territory was officially transferred to the United States government, represented by Meriwether Lewis.

The Louisiana Territory, purchased for less than 3 cents an acre, doubled the size of the United States overnight, without a war or the loss of a single American life, and set a precedent for the purchase of territory. It opened the way for the eventual expansion of the United States across the continent to the Pacific, and its consequent rise to the status of world power.


As of July 2005 (prior to the landfall of Hurricanes Katrina and 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 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. The population density of the state is 102.6 people per square mile.

The center of population of Louisiana is located in Pointe Coupee Parish, in the city of New Roads.

The oldest Louisianan ever was Addie Cook. Cook, a lifetime New Orleanian, was born on August 27, 1867 and died on December 3, 1978, at the age of 111 in a New Orleans nursing home.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 4.66% of the population aged 5 and over speak French or Cajun French at home, while 2.53% speak Spanish.

Cajun and Creole Population

Cajuns and Creoles of French ancestry are dominant in much of the southern part of the state. Louisiana Cajuns are the descendants of French-speaking Acadians from colonial French Acadia, which is now present day Nova Scotia. The Acadians themselves were originally from west central France. The Creole people of Louisiana are split into two racial divisions. White French Creoles and Black Creoles, also known as Creoles of Color. White French Creoles generally are of French and Spanish descent, but may be part Italian, Irish, or German. Black Creoles, or Creoles of Color, are generally a mix of African, French, Spanish and Native American heritage.

African American and Franco-African Population

Louisiana's population has the second largest proportion of black Americans (32.5%) in the United States, behind neighboring Mississippi (36.3%).

Official Census statistics do not distinguish among people of African ancestry. Consequently, no distinction is made between those in Louisiana of English-speaking heritage and those of French-speaking heritage.

Creoles of color, Black Americans in Louisiana with French, African, and Native American ancestry, predominate in the southeast, central, and northern parts of the state, particularly those parishes along the Mississippi River valley.

Southern White Population

Whites of Southern U.S. background predominate in northern Louisiana. These people are predominantly of English, Welsh, and Scots Irish backgrounds, and share a common, mostly Protestant culture with Americans of neighboring states.

Other Europeans

Before the Louisiana Purchase, some German families had settled in a rural area along the lower Mississippi valley, then known as the German Coast. They assimilated into Cajun and Creole communities. In 1840 New Orleans was the third largest and most wealthy city in the nation and the largest city in the South. Its bustling port and trade economy attracted numerous Irish, Italian, and German immigrants, of which the first two groups were totally Catholic, and some Germans were, adding to Catholic culture in southern Louisiana.

Asian Americans

Louisiana's Asian American population includes the descendants of Chinese workers who arrived in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, often from the Caribbean. In the 1970s and 1980s, numerous Vietnamese and other southeast Asian refugees came to the Gulf Coast to work in the fishing and shrimping industries. About 95% of Louisiana's Asian population resides in New Orleans.

In 2006 it was estimated that 50,209 people of Asian descent live in Louisiana.


The total gross state product in 2005 for Louisiana was US168 billion, placing it 24th in the nation. Its per capita personal income is US$30,952, ranking 41st in the United States.

The state's principal agricultural products include seafood (it is the biggest producer of crawfish in the world, supplying approximately 90%), cotton, soybeans, cattle, sugarcane, poultry and eggs, dairy products, and rice. Industry generates chemical products, petroleum and coal products, food processing and transportation equipment, and paper products. Tourism is an important element in the economy.

The Port of South Louisiana, located on the Mississippi between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, is the largest volume shipping port in the Western Hemisphere and 4th largest in the world. It is the largest bulk cargo port in the world.

New Orleans and Shreveport are also home to a thriving film industry. State financial incentives and aggressive promotion have put the local film industry on a fast track. In late 2007 and early 2008, a 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m²) film studio will open in Treme, with state-of-the-art production facilities, and a film training institute. Shreveport has been given the moniker "Hollywood South" for the number of films being shot here. These have included Mr. Brooks, Premonition, and Factory Girl.

Tabasco sauce, which is marketed by one of the United States' biggest producers of hot sauce, the McIlhenny Company, originated on Avery Island.

Louisiana has three 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.

Tourism and culture are major players in Louisiana's economy, earning an estimated $5.2 billion dollars per year. Louisiana also hosts many important cultural events, such as the World Cultural Economic Forum, which is held annually in the fall at the New Orleans Convention Center.


Louisiana is rich in crude oil and natural gas. Oil and gas deposits are found in abundance both onshore and offshore in State-owned waters. In addition, vast crude oil and natural gas reserves are found offshore from Louisiana in the federally administered Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Energy Information Administration, the Gulf of Mexico OCS is the largest U.S. oil-producing region. Excluding the Gulf of Mexico OCS, Louisiana ranks fourth in crude oil production and is home to about 2 percent of total U.S. oil reserves. Louisiana’s natural gas reserves account for about 5 percent of the U.S. total.

Louisiana was the first site of oil drilling over water in the world, on Caddo Lake in the northwest corner of the state. The oil and gas industry as well as its subsidiary industries such as transport and refining, have dominated Louisiana's economy since the 1940s. Beginning in 1950, Louisiana was sued several times by the U.S. Interior Department, in efforts by the Federal Government to strip Louisiana of its submerged land property rights. These control vast stores of reservoirs of oil and natural gas.

When oil and gas boomed in the 1970s, so did Louisiana's economy. Likewise, when the oil and gas crash occurred in the 1980s, in large part due to monetary policy set by the Federal Reserve, Louisiana real estate, savings and loans, and local banks fell rapidly in value. The Louisiana economy as well as its politics of the last half-century cannot be understood without thoroughly accounting for the influence of the oil and gas industries. Since the 1980s, these industries have consolidated in Houston.

Law and government

In 1849, the state moved the capital from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Donaldsonville, Opelousas, and Shreveport have briefly served as the seat of Louisiana state government. The Louisiana State Capitol and the Louisiana Governor's Mansion are both located in Baton Rouge.

The current Louisiana governor is Bobby Jindal, the first Indian American to be elected governor. The current U.S. senators are Mary Landrieu (Democrat) and David Vitter (Republican). Louisiana has seven congressional districts and is represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by four Republicans and three Democrats. Louisiana has nine votes in the Electoral College.

Civil Law

The Louisiana political and legal structure has maintained several elements from the time of French governance. One is the use of the term "parish" in place of "county" for administrative subdivision. Another is the legal system of civil law based on French, German and Spanish legal codes and ultimately Roman law—as opposed to English common law. Common law is "judge-made" law based on precedent, and is the basis of statutes in all other U.S. states. Louisiana's type of civil law system is what the majority of nations in the world use, especially in Europe and its former colonies, excluding those that derive from the British Empire.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.Differences still exist between Louisianan 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 tradition, 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, as well as some aspects of criminal law, are still mostly based on traditional Roman legal thinking. Model Codes, such as the Uniform Commercial Code, which are adopted by most states within the union including Louisiana, are based on civilian thought, the essence being that it is deductive, as opposed to the common law which is inductive. In the civilian tradition the legislative body agrees a priori on the general principles to be followed. When a set of facts are brought before a judge, he deduces the court's ruling by comparing the facts of the individual case to the law. In contrast, common law, which really does not exist in its pure historical form due to the advent of statutory law, was created by a judge applying other judges' decisions to a new fact pattern brought before him in a case. The result is that historically English judges were not constrained by legislative authority.


In 1997, Louisiana became the first state to offer the option of a traditional marriage or a covenant marriage. In a covenant marriage, the couple waives their right to a "no-fault" divorce after six months of separation, which is available in a traditional marriage. To divorce under a covenant marriage, a couple must demonstrate cause.Marriages between ascendants and descendants and marriages between collaterals within the fourth degree (i.e., siblings, aunt and nephew, uncle and niece, first cousins) are prohibited. Same-sex marriages are prohibited.


From 1898-1965, after Louisiana had effectively disfranchised African Americans and poor whites by provisions of a new constitution, it essentially was a one-party state dominated by elite white Democrats. The franchise for whites was expanded somewhat during the decades, but blacks remained essentially disfranchised until the Civil Rights Movement, culminating in passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In multiple acts of resistance, blacks left the segregation, violence and oppression of the state to seek better opportunities in northern and western industrial cities during the Great Migrations of 1910-1970, markedly reducing their proportion of population in Louisiana. Since the 1960s, when civil rights legislation was passed under President Lyndon Johnson to protect voting and civil rights, most African Americans in the state have affiliated with the Democratic Party. In the same years, many white conservatives have moved to support Republican Party candidates in national and gubernatorial elections. David Vitter is the first Republican in Louisiana to be popularly elected as a U.S. Senator. The previous Republican Senator, John S. Harris, who took office in 1868, was chosen by the state legislature.

Louisiana was unique among U.S. states in using a system for state and local elections similar to that of modern France. All candidates, regardless of party affiliation, ran in a nonpartisan blanket primary (or "jungle primary") on Election Day. If no candidate had more than 50% of the vote, the two candidates with the highest vote total competed in a runoff election approximately one month later. This run-off did not take into account party identification; therefore, it was 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. Congressional races have also been held under the jungle primary system. 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. Since 2008 elections have been run under a closed primary system limited to registered party members.

Louisiana sends seven members to the US House of Representatives, of whom four are Republicans and three Democrats. Louisiana is not classified as a "swing state" for future presidential elections.

Law Enforcement

Louisiana's statewide police force is 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. However, Orleans parish is the only parish in which troopers don't maintain primary patrol responsibility. New Orleans Police Dept. has immediate jurisdiction of Orleans Parish. Troopers are also responsible for investigating the casino and gaming industry, all hazardous material incidents, and general criminal, narcotics and insurance fraud; and conducting anti-terrorism training. 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 parishes. Orleans Parish is an exception, 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.

Sports teams

As of 2005 Louisiana is nominally the least populous state with more than one major professional sports league franchise: the National Basketball Association's New Orleans Hornets, the Arena Football League's New Orleans VooDoo, and the National Football League's New Orleans Saints. Louisiana also has a AAA Minor League baseball team, the New Orleans Zephyrs. The Zephyrs, currently affiliated with the New York Mets, became the only Louisiana professional team to win a Championship, when they won the AAA World Series in 1998.

Louisiana also has a proportionally high number of collegiate NCAA Division I sports for its size; the state has no Division II teams and only one Division III team. Louisiana is also home to the 2008 BCS College Football Champion, Louisiana State University.


Louisiana is home to many, especially notable are the distinct culture of the Creoles and Cajuns.

Creole culture is a cultural amalgamation that takes a little from each of the French, Spanish, Italian, German, Irish, African, and Native American cultures. The Creole culture is part of White Creoles' and Black Creoles' culture. Originally Créoles referred to native-born whites of French-Spanish descent. Later the term also referred to descendants of the white men's relationships with African or African-American women, many of whom were educated free people of color. Many of the wealthy white men had quasi-permanent relationships with women of color outside their marriages, and supported them as "placées". If a woman was enslaved at the beginning of the relationship, the man usually arranged for her manumission, as well as that of any of her children.

Creoles became associated with the New Orleans area, where the elaborated arrangements flourished. Most wealthy planters had houses in town as well as at their plantations. Popular belief that a Creole is a mixed Black/French person came from the "Haitian" connotation of an African French person. There were many immigrants from Haiti to New Orleans after the Revolution. Although a Black Creole is one type of Creole, it is not the only type, nor the original meaning of Creole. All of the respective cultures of the groups that settled in southern Louisiana have been combined to make one "New Orleans" culture. The creative combination of cultures from these groups, along with Native American culture, was called "Creole" Culture. It has continued as one of the dominant social, economic and political cultures of Louisiana, along with Cajun culture, well into the 20th century. Some[weasel words] believe it has finally been overtaken by the American mainstream.

Cajun Culture. The ancestors of Cajuns came from west central France to the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, known as Acadia. 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, or the Falkland Islands. The majority found 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. Once flush with oil and gas riches, Cajun culture, food, music and their infectious "joie de vivre" lifestyle quickly gained international acclaim.

A third distinct culture in Louisiana is that of the Isleños, who are descendants of Spanish Canary Islanders who migrated from the Canary Islands of Spain to Louisiana under the Spanish crown beginning in the mid-1770s. They settled in four main settlements, but many relocated to what is modern-day St. Bernard Parish, where the majority of the Isleño population is still concentrated. An annual festival called Fiesta celebrates the heritage of the Isleños. St Bernard Parish has an Isleños museum, cemetery and church, as well as many street names with Spanish words and Spanish surnames from this heritage. Isleño identity is an active concern in the New Orleans suburbs of St. Bernard Parish, LA. Some members of the Isleño community still speak Spanish - with their own Canary Islander accent. Numerous Isleño identity clubs and organizations, and many members of Isleños society keep contact with the Canary Islands of Spain.


Among the states, Louisiana has a unique culture, owing to its French and Spanish joint heritage, both begun long before the Louisiana Purchase and the Adams-Onís Treaty, respectively, which eventually led to the U.S.A. statehood of the territory. According to the statistics from the 2000 census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over, 90.8% of Louisiana residents speak only English and 4.7% speak French. Other minoritary languages are Spanish which is spoken by 2.5% of the population, Vietnamese by 0.6%, German by 0.2%, etc. The Louisiana State Constitution does not declare any "de iure official language", but currently the "de facto administrative language" is English.

There are several unique dialects of French, Creole and English spoken in Louisiana. First, there are three unique dialects of the French language: Cajun French, Colonial French, and Napoleonic French. For the Creole language, there is 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 historical Brooklyn, as both accents were influenced by large communities of immigrant Irish and Italian, but the Yat dialect was also influenced by French and Spanish. The Yat dialect is the principal dialect of the Caucasians of the New Orleans Metropolitan Area. Blacks of the New Orleans Metropolitan Area speak with an accent that closely resembles other southern U.S. dialects of English.


Like the other Southern states, Louisiana is mostly Protestant, which stems mostly from northern and most of central Louisiana. Because of French descendants, known as Cajun and French Creole, and later Irish, Italian, and German immigrants, there is also a large native Catholic population in the state, particularly in the southern part of the state. Catholics have also traditionally been well represented in the politics. Most of the early governors were Catholic. in the era when the predominantly Catholic south had a greater population advantage over the mostly Protestant north. Despite no longer outnumbering Protestants, Catholics continue to play important roles in Louisiana's politics; for example as of 2007 both Senators and the Governor are Catholic. The importance of the Catholic population makes Louisiana unique among Southern states. The current religious affiliations of the people of Louisiana are shown in the table below:

  • Christian — 80%
    • Protestant — 50%
      • Baptist — 38%
      • Methodist — 4%
      • Pentecostal — 2%
      • Other Protestant – 16%
    • Roman Catholic — 30%
    • Other Christian — 1%
  • Other Religions — 10%
    • Islam - 1%
    • Judaism - 0.5%
  • Non-Religious — 10%

According to, a leading and respected worldwide web authority on religious affiliation, Roman Catholicism remains the largest single church body in the state of Louisiana according to the most recent, certifiable, statistical figures available.

A number of cities in Louisiana are also home to Jewish communities, notably Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The most significant of these is the Jewish community of the New Orleans area, with a pre-Katrina population of about 12,000. The presence of a significant Jewish community already well established by the early 20th century also makes Louisiana unique among Southern states.


  • The Pelican State
  • The Bayou State
  • The Sugar State
  • The Child of the Mississippi
  • The Creole State
  • Sportsman's Paradise
  • Fisherman's Paradise
  • The Holland of America
  • The Birth Place of Jazz

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