The state abbreviation for Louisiana is LA, it is one of the 50 U.S. States located in the southern region of the United States. An interesting fact about this place is that the counties are called parishes. This place is known for its unique culture and of course, the famous Mardi Gras celebration. Today we'll look at the geography, climate, and culture of LA.
Before we dive in though, here are some key pieces of information to know about this place:
LA is ranked 31st in total area, and 25th in population among the other states. The capital may be Baton Rouge, but the largest city is New Orleans. It is the only state with Parishes instead of counties. These are functionally the same, but the name is different. The largest of these is the East Baton Rouge Parish in terms of population, but the largest in size is the Plaquemines Parish.
The state's name comes from Louis XIV, the King of France from 1643 to 1715. It was named this when two explorers claimed the area drained by the Mississippi River for France.
It is bordered by Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, Texas to the west, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. Much of the land in this area was created from sediment that washed down from the Mississippi River. This is also what caused there to be so many marshes and swamps. Birds such as ibis and egrets are common in these areas, along with tree frogs, sturgeons, and paddlefish.
In the elevated areas of the state, fire is common and natural. It has produced large areas of longleaf pine forests, and wet savannas which each have a large number of plant species, orchids, and even carnivorous plants. The large urban areas have multicultural and multinational heritages as a result of 18th-century French, Spanish, Native American, and Africa cultures that were present in the territory prior to it being acquired by the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
Prior to this purchase, it was once a French colony, a Spanish colony, and a large importer of slaves from West Africa prior to the Civil War. This created the unique mixture of cultures that the state is known for. In addition to all of this, there are four federally recognized, ten state recognized, and four unrecognized Native American tribes in Louisiana.
Geology, Geography, and Climate
250 million years ago, all of the continents were joined together in one massive supercontinent named Pangea. During this time, the Gulf of Mexico did not exist. When the supercontinent started to drift apart, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico developed. The area that would one day be Louisiana developed slowly, over millions of years.
Originally water, it formed into land from north to south as sediments from the Mississippi River collected at the drainage point. The oldest rocks in the state can be found in the Kisatchie National Forest. These date back to the Tertiary Era over 60 million years ago. A unique formation, known as salt domes, are also found here. They were formed when the Gulf of Mexico was first developing and it had a high evaporation rate.
You can divide the area into two parts: the uplands, and the alluvial along the coast. The latter region has low swamp lands, coastal marshlands, and barrier islands. It is mostly along the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. The uplands are composed of prairies and woodlands. The elevations here are small, ranging from ten feet, to fifty or sixty feet above sea level. Even the highest level at Driskill Mountain is only 535 feet above sea level.
The climate is classified as a humid subtropical climate consisting of long hot, and humid summers combined with short, mild winters. While rain is common. the city of New Orleans was devastated by hurricane Katrina in August of 2005. It was classified as a category 3 hurricane when it hit landfall. It breached the levees in the city and flooded over 80% of it. Many people evacuated, but despite this, 1,500 people still died.
Estimations say that over 2 million people were displaced or made homeless by the storm. The climate and placement of the state makes it massively vulnerable to these types of tropical cyclones.
A Melting Pot of Cultures
There are several different cultures that combine to create the unique aspects of this state. Let's examine a few of them:
The word Creole comes from the Portuguese word crioulo which means "a person of European descent born in the New World." It is one of the most unique elements of the state's personality as it is a culture composed of aspects from French, Spanish, African, and Native American cultures. Many people who are descendants of these peoples who first came to the state call themselves Creole. Their unique cooking, music, and beliefs have come to define this place.
These are ancestors of Cajuns who came west from France to settle in the area new New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada known as Acadia. After they received their freedom, many fled south to Lafayette in LA. The term "Cajuns" was seen as derogatory until the 1970's. This culture also contributes greatly to the music and cuisine of the state.
3. Isleño culture
This culture is composed of people who are descendants of Canary Islanders who came from the Canary Islands of Spain to Louisiana in the mid-1770s's. These people primarily relocated to St. Bernard Parish. Each year there is a festival called Fiesta that celebrates their heritage.
Louisiana is truly a place full of culture, interesting people, and unique sights. For more information, check out our Louisiana state facts page for more!