Geography and Landforms:

Louisiana can be divided into three main geographic land areas. The East Gulf Coastal Plain consists of marshland east of the Mississippi River, and then rises slightly to rolling hills north of Lake Pontchartrain. The Mississippi Alluvial Plain is located along the Mississippi River and is characterized by ridges and hollows. This area includes the huge Mississippi Delta area covering about one-quarter of the state. This is the most fertile area of the state. Finally, the West Gulf Coastal Plain includes the area west of the Alluvial Plain and includes the highest point in the state, Driskill Mountain, near Arkansas. The lowest point in the state is in New Orleans and is 8 feet below sea level. This is the second lowest place in the United States next to Death Valley in California.


Although Louisiana has at one time or another been under the flags of Spain, France, Britain, the United States, and even its own territorial flag, no one knows for sure which European explorer first set foot in Louisiana. In 1519, Alonso Alvarez de Pineda explored the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico and may have been the first to discover the mouth of the Mississippi River. By 1542, Hernando de Soto was also exploring the area of the Mississippi. However, it was not until 1682 that Sieur de La Salle "took possession" of the area on behalf of the country of France and named it Louisiana in honor of France's King Louis XIV. The first permanent settlement in Louisiana was established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, and was called Fort St. Jean Baptiste. Today, the settlement is present-day Natchitoches.

Unfortunately, these early settlers were unsuited to life on the frontier and their colony did not prosper. By 1717, the government of France had granted all colonization rights to a Scotsman named John Law who had devised a plan to increase commerce in the area. Using the names "Company of the West" and "Company of the Indies," Law tried to entice settlement by promising colonists they would become wealthy through the minerals which they could find in the area. These projects were terrible failures, and the government of France lost a significant amount of money. However, the publicity gained from even these failed attempts did lead to further settlement.

Louisiana became a French crown colony in 1731 with the collapse of Law's settlement companies. By 1762, however, the French realized that the colony was continuing to lose money, and the area was ceded (given) to Spain after the French and Indian War. The British gained control of Florida, which then bordered the colony. Control of the area went back and forth between the Spanish and the British. Meanwhile, French Acadians, who had been driven out of Nova Scotia by the British, began migrating to Louisiana. The Spanish attempted to offset the growing French population in Louisiana, but by 1800, they returned the colony to the French through the Treaty of San Ildefonso. Three short years later, in 1803, Napolean sold Louisiana to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Despite the fact that Louisiana was under the control of several European nations early in its history, African natives made up a large proportion of the population in the 18th and 19th century. The rich blend of cultures in the area, including native American Indian, African and European, meant that no one lifestyle, religion or culture dominated in early Louisiana history.

The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States, and it put the new country in a position to become a world power. The Purchase represented over 900,000 square miles, and these lands eventually became all or part of thirteen states: Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Colorado and Montana.

In 1812, Louisiana became the 18th state to join the Union and encompassed what had been the Territory of New Orleans. For the time being, the rest became the Missouri Territory. Not until 1819, however, were the so-called Florida Parishes and the lands west of the Red River added to form the present state boundaries.

During the War of 1812, the British moved ships up the Mississippi River to New Orleans, but in 1815, Andrew Jackson defeated them in the Battle of New Orleans. The battle, actually fought 15 days after the Treaty of Ghent (which ended the war) was signed, ending the war, was decisive in preventing the territory from being returned to the British once again.

By 1860, the population of Louisiana was over 700,000 and the plantation system, fueled by slave labor, dominated the state's economy. In 1861, Louisiana seceded from the Union, and for several months, until joining the Confederacy, existed under independent territorial rule.

More than 500 battles, engagements and skirmishes were fought in Louisiana during the Civil War. New Orleans represented the South's largest city and was a major port city, so it was a primary target during the war. Approximately 20% of the state's able-bodied white young men were killed in battle or died of disease. Hundreds of black soldiers were killed as well.

1877 President Rutherford B. Hayes finally withdrew US army troops from Louisiana after the longest occupation of any of the southern states during Reconstruction.

In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated much of the Louisiana coastline, destroying entire communities and much of the city of New Orleans. Rebuilding has been slow, and is far from complete.


Louisiana is one of the nation's largest producers of cotton, sugarcane, rice, sweet potatoes and pecans. It is also a major producer of soybeans and corn. Louisiana is the only source of the Tabasco pepper, prized as a condiment across the world. Poultry is the largest livestock industry. The state is also the nation's largest producer of alligator hides and crawfish. Tourism is Louisiana's second largest industry after forestry (including paper-making and wood producing). Louisiana has more than 13.9 million acres of forests.

Louisiana's principal mineral products are petroleum, natural gas, salt, sulphur, carbon black, and gravel. Louisiana ranks second in the nation in oil production. The state contains just under 10 percent of all known US oil reserves. The state produces just over one-quarter of all U.S. natural gas supplies.

Louisiana's commercial fishing industry catches about 25 percent of all seafood caught in America. It is the nation's largest producer of shrimp and oysters.

First Inhabitants:

The earliest inhabitants of the area we now call Louisiana were probably nomads who hunted big game as early as 10,000 years ago. Archaeologists tell us that farming in the area began around 2,000 years ago with the cultivation of crops such as squash, sunflowers, beans and maize. Excavation at Poverty Point reveals that a highly organized society lived there from around 700 B.C.

Groups of indigenous peoples lived and farmed in the area up until the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. By about 1700, there were probably as many as 15,000 Indians living in the area, representing six different linguistic groups: the Caddo, the Natchez, the Atakapa, the Chitimachan, the Muskogean and the Tunican. Most tribes survived on a combination of agriculture, hunting, and fishing. Usually, the men were responsible for ruling and defending the tribal community. They also constructed the community's buildings and canoes, and hunted. Women cared for children and the elderly, planted crops and made clothes and utensils.

Clothing was often made of bark, hides, and feathers. Both men and women wore body ornaments like necklaces, armbands, rings, and ear and nose plugs made from shells, pearls, and copper. Although religious practices differed from tribe to tribe, most Louisiana Indians believed that humans needed to be in harmony with nature, and honored their dead with burial mounds, and celebrations of dance, song, and food. Natives lived and worshipped in houses thatched with palmetto branches, or made of grass or traditional wattle and daub.

Native people also enjoyed themselves with various games and sporting events like wrestling, foot races, archery, dice, dancing and music.

Books Related To Louisiana

Bill and Pete to the Rescue - Tomie dePaola
(978-0698118843) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, Lexile: 510, ESL level: 2 - 3
Bill must save his cousin and some endangered animals that have been taken to an exotic animals farm; his friend Pete helps him make the save.

Feliiana Feydra LeRoux: A Cajun Tall Tale - Tynia Thomassie
(978-1589802865) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 910, ESL level: 3 - 4
Feliciana secretly accompanies her grandfather on a dangerous but exciting alligator hunt in the Louisiana bayous.

Fiddle Fever - Sharon Arms Doucet
(978-0618776825) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 870, ESL level: 4 - 5
Felix decides to follow in his uncle's footsteps and become a fiddler player, even though he has to make his own instrument and defy his parents.

Honey Bea - Kim Siegelson
(978-0982902707) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-11, Lexile: 940, ESL level: 4 - 5
A young slave girl grows up learning how to balance the family endowed magical powers and her life as a servant on a sugar plantation in Louisiana.

Mr. Williams - Karen Barbour
(978-0805067736) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 790, ESL level: 2 - 3
An African Americans recounts his life in rural Louisiana when everyone worked together and life was simple.

P is for Pelican: A Louisiana Alphabet - Anita Prieto
(978-1585361373) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of Louisiana.

Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood - Mike Artell
(978-0142500705) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-12, Lexile: 870, ESL level: 3 - 4
Readers will enjoy the Cajun culture version of the classic Red Riding Hood tale.

Rent Party Jazz - William Miller
(978-1600603440) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-12, Lexile: 820, ESL level: 3 - 4
Sonny learns how to organize a rent party, a community event common among African American families during the depression, to get together enough funds to keep their home.

Sounder - William Armstrong
(978-0064400206) , Fiction
Interest level: 8-12, Lexile: 900, ESL level: 4
A young African American boy gets comfort and companionship from his faithful dog Sounder while his father is in jail in this children's classic.

Sounder - William Armstrong
(978-0030547072) , Fiction
Interest level: 8-12, Lexile: 900, ESL level: 4 - 5
An African American son feels shame when his father goes to jail for stealing food for the family, but he determines to learn to read and improve his lot; his dog Sounder is his steady companion during the Depression years.

Through My Eyes - Ruby Bridges
(978-0590189231) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 4-7, Lexile: 860, ESL level: 3-4
Ruby Bridges, in her own words, describes her experience as the first African American child to enter a white school in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Famous Citizens:

Louis Armstrong
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Louis Armstrong was a trumpet player and singer considered by many to be one of the best jazz musicians ever. Nicknamed Satchmo, he was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, has 11 compositions in the Grammy Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The New Orleans airport was renamed Louis Armstrong International Airport in his honor.

Michael DeBakey
Born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Dr. Michael DeBakey was a pioneer in the field of cardiac care and surgery. At age 23, he inventor one of the components of the heart-lung bypass machine, making open-heart surgery possible. He contributed toward the technology that made the first external artificial heart, and developed the use of Dacron grafts for repairing blood vessels. He is said to have operated on more than 50,000 patients over his long career as a surgeon.

Mahalia Jackson
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Mahalia Jackson recorded the first million-selling gospel record. She also played a role in the Civil Rights movement, using her voice to raise money for the cause. She sang just prior to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, and he remarked that a voice like hers comes around only "once in a millennium."

Huey Long
Born in Winfield, Louisiana, controversial Governor and Senator, Huey Long pushed for unprecedented expansion of governmental services in education, transportation and health. His life was ended by assassination.

Capital: Baton Rouge
Entered Union: April 30, 1812
Population: 4,649,676
Area 51,840
Bird Eastern Brown Pelican
Flower Magnolia
Nickname: Pelican State
Governor Bobby Jindal

Places to Visit in Louisiana: (Click the links to learn more.)

Fort St. Jean Baptiste - Natchitoches
Site of the oldest settlement in Louisiana, near Natchitoches, the Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic area includes a replica of the fort and commemorates the establishment of a fortification by Louis Antoine Juchereau de St. Denis in 1714.

New Orleans French Quarter - New Orleans
The French Quarter section of New Orleans has been a continuous residential neighborhood since 1718. Filled with Spanish and French architecture, famous restaurants, art and antique galleries, and the infamous Bourbon Street, the French Quarter is also the home of the world famous Mardi Gras celebration each spring.

Delta Music Museum - Ferriday
A collection related to the musical heritage of the Mississippi River Delta, including Conway Twitty, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Aaron Neville.

Louisiana Cotton Museum - Lake Providence
This museum is dedicated to the history of cotton cultivation and its influence on life in Louisiana. Several buildings on a rural plantation setting include an original 1840s farmhouse, an authentic sharecropper's cabin and a historic cotton gin.

Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World - New Orleans
Visit the site of the creation of many of New Orleans' most famous Mardi Gras floats. Watch artists and sculptors work on the floats for the coming year.