Located in the southeastern United States, Louisiana lies entirely within the Gulf Coastal Plain. It is shaped like a capital L, approximately 530 km (330 mi) at its widest, and about 450 km (280 mi) from north to south. Louisiana is bordered by Mississippi on the east, the Gulf of Mexico on the south, Texas on the west, and Arkansas on the north. Sighted by the Spanish in 1519, Louisiana was first explored by Panfilo de NARVAEZ of Spain, who navigated its coast in 1528. Later, Robert Cavalier, sieur de LA SALLE, named the region Louisiana in honor of the French king Louis XIV, claiming it for France in 1682. The state's long and varied history, diverse population, abundant energy resources, and strategic location at the mouth of the Mississippi River are valued attributes. The problems that exist in Louisiana stem from its prolonged recovery after the Civil War, its relatively slow industrial growth, and its heavy dependence on extractive industries.
LAND. Area: 123,677 sq km (47,752 sq mi); rank: 31st. Capital: Baton Rouge. Largest city: New Orleans (1990 census, 496,938). County equivalents (parishes): 64. Elevations: highest--163 m (535 ft), at Driskill Mountain; lowest--minus 2 m (minus 5 ft), at New Orleans.
People of Louisiana
There is a rich diversity of peoples in Louisiana (See Ancestry under Louisiana Demographics). They include the original Indian inhabitants, plus the descendants of a variety of settlers, among whom were the French, Spanish, English, German, Acadians, West Indians, Africans, Irish and Italians and now include almost every nationality on earth.
Ironically, it was the Spanish who built many of the colonial structures that still stand in the "French Quarter" of New Orleans, and Spanish is still spoken in some communities, particularly in St. Bernard Parish below New Orleans. Hundreds of German families were recruited in 1719 by the Company of the West (which held the French royal charter for the development of Louisiana), and those sturdy pioneers settled upriver from New Orleans along a section of the Mississippi River that is still called the Cote des Allemands ("German Coast"). The parishes north of Lake Pontchartrain (the sixth largest lake in the U.S.) and east of the Mississippi River were once a part of British West Florida, occupied by English planters and military in the 1700s. Bernardo de Galvez, Louisiana's Spanish governor and an American ally in the Revolution, prevented the further development of a British stronghold in the Mississippi Valley by capturing British forts at Manchac and Baton Rouge in 1779.
Bibliography: GENERAL: Core, Lucy, and Calhoun, David, eds., The Louisiana Almanac 1984-85 (1984).
DESCRIPTION AND GEOGRAPHY: Davis, Edwin A., and Suarez, Raleigh A., Louisiana: The Pelican State, 5th ed. (1985); Lockwood, C. C., Discovering Louisiana (1986); Newton, Milton B., Atlas of Louisiana (1972).
LAND AND PEOPLE: Kniffen, Fred B., and Hilliard, Sam B., Louisiana: Its Land and People, rev. ed. (1987); Post, Lauren C., Cajun Sketches from the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana, 2d ed. (1974); Read, William A., Louisiana French, rev. ed. (1963); Smith, T. Lynn, and Hitt, Homer L., The People of Louisiana (1952)