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Louisiana is located in the southern United
States, on the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. Louisiana
is richly endowed with such nonrenewable minerals as oil, natural
gas, sulfur, and salt. In addition to mining, the state has
flourishing agricultural, lumbering, and fishing industries. These
activities provide the basis for much of the manufacturing in
Louisiana. Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana. New Orleans is
the largest city.
A succession of Native American cultures
occupied the area of Louisiana beginning as long as 12,000 years
ago. Many were local societies sustained by hunting and gathering or
subsistence agriculture, but others, such as the Poverty Point
Culture centered along Bayou Macon in northeastern Louisiana, had
regional influence and trading networks.
The French were the original European colonizers
of Louisiana, beginning in the early 18th century. After a period of
Spanish control it reverted to France. During this colonial period
other European and African cultures were introduced into the area.
Most of Louisiana was bought by the United States in 1803 as part of
the Louisiana Purchase; the rest came as a result of the West
Florida Rebellion of 1810. Louisiana entered the Union on April 30,
1812, as the 18th state.
Initially, in the colonial period, the
locality was known as Louisiane. This name was given by the French
explorer René-Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, who journeyed
down the Mississippi River in 1682 and claimed a vast area for
France, naming it for the French king, Louis XIV. The Spanish
version of the name was Luisiana. From these forms evolved the
present name of Louisiana. The most popular nickname for Louisiana
is the Pelican State, after the native coastal bird. Other nicknames
are the Creole State, after the descendants of early French and
Spanish settlers, and the Bayou State, for the many lush,
slow-moving waterways found in the state.
Louisiana, which ranks 31st in size among the
states, covers 49,650 square miles, including 4,153 square miles of
inland water and 1,931 square miles of coastal water over which it
has jurisdiction. It has a maximum length, from north to south, of
about 275 miles and a maximum width of about 300 miles. Elevations
range from 8 feet below sea level, at New Orleans, to 535 feet above
sea level, at Mount Driskill, in northwestern Louisiana. It has an
average elevation of only about 100 feet and is one of the three
The climate of all the major regions of Louisiana
is characterized by short mild winters and long, hot, and generally
Average January temperatures range from less than
46° in northwestern Louisiana to more than 55° in the southeastern
delta country. Temperatures in below 0° have been recorded, but
prolonged periods of cold weather are extremely rare.
July averages are in the lower 80°s throughout
the state. Daytime highs are rarely more than 95°, but the
constantly high relative humidity causes some discomfort. In the
coastal areas the high temperatures and relative humidity are
tempered by cool breezes that blow inshore from the Gulf. Nighttime
lows are generally in higher 70°s during much of the summer.
Total annual precipitation, mostly in the form of
rain, ranges from about 48 inches in northwestern Louisiana to more
than 60 inches in the southeast. Snow, ice and hail are rare in
Louisiana. Thunderstorms are frequent in July, which is the wettest
month, and tropical storms and hurricanes sometimes strike the
coast, usually between July and September. Droughts are seldom
severe. Ice storms are an infrequent but dangerous event.