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ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: Named in 1682 for France 's King Louis XIV.

NICKNAME: The Pelican State.

ENTERED UNION: 30 April 1812 (18th).

SONG: "Give Me Louisiana;" "You are My Sunshine;" "State March Song."

MOTTO: Union, Justice, and Confidence.

FLAG: On a blue field, fringed on three sides, a white pelican feeds her three young, symbolizing the state providing for its citizens; the state motto is inscribed on a white ribbon.

OFFICIAL SEAL: In the center, a pelican and its young are as depicted on the flag; the state motto encircles the scene, and the words "State of Louisiana" surround the whole.

BIRD: Eastern brown pelican.

FISH: Crustacean: Crawfish.

FLOWER: Magnolia; Louisiana iris (wildflower).

TREE: Bald cypress.

LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. 3rd Monday in January; Mardi Gras Day, Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, February; Good Friday, Friday before Easter. March or April; Independence Day, 4 July; Huey Long's Birthday, 30 August, by proclamation of the governor; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Election Day, 1st Tuesday in November in even-numbered years; Veterans' Day, 11 November; Thanksgiving Day, 4th Thursday in November; Christmas Day, 25 December. Legal holidays in Baton Rouge parish also include Inauguration Day, once every four years in January.

TIME: 6 AM CST = noon GMT.


Situated in the western south-central United States. Louisiana ranks 31st in size among the 50 states. The total area of Louisiana is 47,751 sq mi (123,675 sq km), including 44,521 sq mi (115,309 sq km) of land and 3,230 sq mi (8,366 sq km) of inland water. The state extends 237 mi (381 km) e-w; its maximum n-s extension is 236 mi (380 km). Louisiana is shaped roughly like a boot, with the heel in the sw corner and the toe at the extreme se.

Louisiana is bordered on the n by Arkansas; on the e by Mississippi (with part of the line formed by the Mississippi River and part, in the extreme se, by the Pearl River); on the s by the Gulf of Mexico; and on the w by Texas (with part of the line passing through the Sabine River and Toledo Bend Reservoir). The state's geographic center is in Avoyelles Parish, 3 mi (5 km) se of Marksville. The total boundary length of Louisiana is 1,486 mi (2,391 km). Louisiana's total tidal shoreline is 7,721 mi (12,426 km).


Louisiana lies wholly within the Gulf Coastal Plain. Alluvial lands, chiefly of the Red and Mississippi rivers, occupy the north-central third of the state. East and west of this alluvial plain are the upland districts, characterized by rolling hills sloping gently toward the coast. The coastal-delta section, in the southernmost portion of the state, consists of the Mississippi Delta and the coastal lowlands. The highest elevation in the state is Driskill Mountain at 535 ft (163 m), in Bienville Parish; the lowest, 8 ft (2 m) below sea level, in New Orleans. The mean elevation of the state is approximately 100 ft (31 m).

Louisiana has the most wetlands of all the states, about 11,000 sq mi (28,000 sq km) of floodplains and 7,800 sq mi (20,200 sq km) of coastal swamps, marshes, and estuarine waters. The largest lake, actually a coastal lagoon, is Lake Pontchartrain, with an area of more than 620 sq mi (1,600 sq km). Toledo Bend Reservoir, an artificial lake along the Louisiana-Texas border, has an area of 284 sq mi (736 sq km). The most important rivers are the Mississippi, Red, Pearl, Atchafalaya, and Sabine. Most drainage takes place through swamps between the bayous, which serve as outlets for overflowing rivers and streams. Louisiana has nearly 2,500 coastal islands covering some 2,000 sq mi (5,000 sq km).


Louisiana has a relatively constant semitropical climate. Rainfall and humidity decrease, and daily temperature variations increase, with distance from the Gulf of Mexico. The normal daily temperature in New Orleans is 69 ° f (20 ° c), ranging from 53 ° f (11 ° c) in January to 82 ° f (27 ° c) in July. The all-time high temperature is 114 ° f (46 ° c), recorded at Plain Dealing on 10 August 1936; the all-time low, − 16 ° f ( − 27 ° c), was set at Minden on 13 February 1899. New Orleans has sunshine 58% of the time, and the average annual rainfall is about 61.6 in (156 cm). Snow falls occasionally in the north, but rarely in the south.

Prevailing winds are from the south or southeast. During the summer and fall, tropical storms and hurricanes frequently batter the state, especially along the coast. The 2005 hurricane season devastated much of the Gulf region, primarily through Hurricane Katrina. Katrina made landfall at Buras on 29 August 2005 as a Category 4 storm. The combination of high winds and flooding led to levee damage around New Orleans, allowing flood waters to cover about 80% of the city, with depths as high as 20 ft (6.3 m). One month later, Hurricane Rita made landfall near Johnson's Bayou as a Category 3 storm. Initial reports from Hurricane Rita alone included 119 deaths and $8 billion in damage. As of early 2006, damage assessments for Hurricane Katrina were still underway. Over 1,300 deaths had been reported, well over 1 million people were displaced, and the cost of rebuilding was estimated at over $150 billion.


Forests in Louisiana consist of four major types: shortleaf pine uplands, slash and longleaf pine flats and hills, hardwood forests in alluvial basins, and cypress and tupelo swamps. Important commercial trees also include beech, eastern red cedar, and black walnut. Among the state's wildflowers are the ground orchid and several hyacinths; two species (Louisiana quillwort and American chaffseed) were listed as endangered in April 2006. Spanish moss (actually a member of the pineapple family) grows profusely in the southern regions but is rare in the north.

Louisiana's varied habitats — tidal marshes, swamps woodlands, and prairies — offer a diversity of fauna. Deer, squirrel, rabbit, and bear are hunted as game, while muskrat, nutria, mink, opossum, bobcat, and skunk are commercially significant furbearers. Prized game birds include quail, turkey, woodcock, and various waterfowl, of which the mottled duck and wood duck are native. Coastal beaches are inhabited by sea turtles, and whales may be seen offshore. Freshwater fish include bass, crappie, and bream; red and white crawfishes are the leading commercial crustaceans. Threatened animal species include five species (green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, leatherback, and loggerhead) of sea turtle. In April 2006, a total of 23 species occurring within the state were on the threatened and endangered species list of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These included 20 animal (vertebrates and invertebrates) and 3 plant species. Among those listed were the Louisiana black bear, bald eagle, Alabama heelsplitter, and red-cockaded woodpecker.


Louisiana's earliest and most pressing environmental problem was the chronic danger of flooding by the Mississippi River. In April and May 1927, one of the worst floods in the state's history inundated more than 1,300,000 acres (526,000 hectares) of agricultural land, left 300,000 people homeless, and would have swept away much of New Orleans had levees below the city not been dynamited. The following year, the US Congress funded construction of a system of floodways and spillways to divert water from the Mississippi when necessary. These flood control measures and dredging for oil and gas exploration created another environmental problem — the slowing of the natural flow of silt into the wetlands. As a result, salt water from the Gulf of Mexico has seeped into the wetlands.

The city of New Orleans suffered a major environmental disaster under Hurricane Katrina, which swept through the area in September 2005. High winds and flooding eventually led to a breach in the levees around New Orleans, allowing flood waters to cover about 80% of the city, with depths as high as 20 ft (6.3 m). Hundreds of homes, industries, and

other public buildings were destroyed releasing a myriad of contaminants into the air, water, and soil. As of early 2006, environmental cleanup and damage assessments were still underway.

In 1984, Louisiana consolidated much of its environmental protection efforts into a new state agency — The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Among its responsibilities are maintenance of air and water quality, solid-waste management, hazardous waste disposal, and control of radioactive materials. According to the Louisiana Environmental Action Plan (LEAP to 2000 Project), toxic air pollution, industrial and municipal waste-water discharges, and coastal wetland loss head the list of state residents' environmental concerns. Louisiana's problem in protecting its wetlands differs from that of most other states in that its wetlands are more than wildlife refuges — they are central to the state's agriculture and fishing industries. Assessment of the environmental impact of various industries on the wetlands has been conducted under the Coastal Zone Management Plan of the Department of Natural Resources.

The two largest wildlife refuges in the state are the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, comprising 84,000 acres (34,000 hectares) in Cameron and Vermilion parishes, and the Marsh Island Refuge, 82,000 acres (33,000 hectares) of marshland in Iberia Parish. Both are managed by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Louisiana's coastal marshes represent almost 40% of such lands in the country. Catahoula Lake, located in LaSalle and Rapides parishes, was designated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 1991, primarily for its role as a habitat for migratory birds. The site is managed jointly by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. In 1996, wetlands, which once covered more than half the state, accounted for about one-third of Louisiana's land.

With approximately 100 major chemical and petrochemical manufacturing and refining facilities located in Louisiana, many DEQ programs deal with the regulation of hazardous waste generation, management and disposal, and chemical releases to the air and water. Trends in air monitoring have, for example, continued to show decreases in criteria pollutants. In 1993, Louisiana became one of the first states in the nation to receive federal approval for stringent new solid waste landfill regulations, and the department has developed a Statewide Solid Waste Management Plan which encourages waste reduction. In 2003, Louisiana had 155 hazardous waste sites included in the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) database, 11 of which were included on the National Priorities List as of 2006, including the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant in Doyline. Nine sites were deleted from the National Priority List in 2006, but three new sites were proposed. In 2005, federal EPA grants awarded to the state included $14.8 million for the state revolving loan program (in support of water quality projects) and $2.4 million for water pollution control projects in urban and agricultural settings.

In 2003, 126.8 million lb of toxic chemicals were released in the state. Of the total river miles in the state impacted by pollution, 69% of the pollution is due to nonpoint sources such as agricultural and urban runoff. Efforts by DEQ to curb nonpoint source pollution have included the support and cooperation of the agricultural community and other state and federal agencies.

Among the most active citizen's groups on environmental issues are the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club (Delta Chapter), and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN). Curbside recycling programs exist in 28 parishes.


Louisiana ranked 24th in population in the United States with an estimated total of 4,523,628 in 2005, an increase of 1.2% since 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, Louisiana's population grew from 4,219,973 to 4,468,976, an increase of 5.9%. The population is projected to reach 4.67 million by 2015 and 4.76 million by 2025.

At the time of the 1980 census, Louisiana ranked 19th among the 50 states, with a population of 4,203,972, representing an increase of more than 15% since 1970. However, by 1990 the population was 4,219,973, representing only a 0.3% gain, and ranking had slipped to 21st. The population density in 2004 was 104.2 persons per sq mi.

In 2004 the median age was 35.2. Persons under 18 years old accounted for 25.8% of the population while 11.7% was age 65 or older.

New Orleans is the largest city, with an estimated 2004 population of 462,269, followed by Baton Rouge, 224,097; and Shreveport, 198,675. Baton Rouge, the capital, had grown with exceptional speed since 1940, when its population was 34,719; however, since 1980, the population has been decreasing. Among the state's largest metropolitan areas are New Orleans, with an estimated 1,319,589, and Baton Rouge, with 728,731.


Louisiana, most notably the Delta region, is an enclave of ethnic heterogeneity in the South. At the end of World War II. the established population of the Delta, according to descent, included blacks, French, Spanish (among them Central and South Americans and Islenos, Spanish-speaking migrants from the Canary Islands), Filipinos, Italians, Chinese, American Indians, and numerous other groups.

Blacks made up about 32.5% of the population in 2000 (the second-highest percentage among the 50 states), and were estimated to number 1,451,944. They include descendants of "free people of color," some of whom were craftsmen and rural property owners before the Civil War (a few were slaveholding plantation owners). Many of these, of mixed blood, are referred to locally as "colored Creoles" and have constituted a black elite in both urban and rural Louisiana. The black population of New Orleans constituted 67.3% of the city's residents in 2000; New Orleans elected its first black mayor, Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial, in 1977. In 2004, 33% of the state's population was black.

Two groups that have been highly identified with the culture of Louisiana are Creoles and Acadians (also called Cajuns). Both descend primarily from early French immigrants to the state, but the Cajuns trace their origins from the mainly rural people exiled from Acadia (Nova Scotia ) in the 1740s, while the Creoles tend to be city people from France and, to a lesser extent, from Nova Scotia or Hispaniola. (The term "Creole" also applies to the relatively few early Spanish settlers and their descendants.) Although Acadians have intermingled with Spaniards and Germans, they still speak a French patois and retain a distinctive culture and cuisine. In 2000, 179,739 residents claimed Acadian/Cajun ancestry. In 2000, 107,738, or 2.4% of the population, were Hispanic or Latino. That figure had risen to 2.8% of the population by 2004.

At the time of the 2000 census, 115,885 Louisianians (2.6% of the population) were foreign born. France, Germany. Ireland. and the United Kingdom provided Louisiana with the largest ancestry groups. As of 2000, there were 25,477 American Indians in Louisiana, along with 54,758 and Asians, including 24,358 Vietnamese. Pacific Islanders numbered 1,240. In 2004, 0.6% of the population was American Indian, 1.4% Asian, and 0.8% of the population claimed origin of two or more races.


White settlers in Louisiana found several Indian tribes of the Caddoan confederacy. from at least five different language groups. In 1990, about 495 Louisiana residents spoke an American Indian language at home. Place-names from this heritage include Coushatta, Natchitoches, and Ouachita.

Louisiana English is predominantly Southern. Notable features of the state's speech patterns are pen and pin as sound-alikes and, in New Orleans, the so-called Brooklyn pronunciation of bird as /boyd/. A pecan sugar candy is well known as praline .

In 2000, 3,771,003 Louisiana residents — 90.8% of the population five years old and older (up from 89.9% in 1990) — spoke only English at home.

Unique to Louisiana is a large enclave, west of New Orleans, where a variety of French called Acadian (Cajun) is the first language. From it, and from early colonial French, English has taken such words as pirogue (dugout canoe), armoire (wardrobe), boudin (blood sausage), and lagniappe (extra gift).

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "African languages" includes Amharic, Ibo, Twi, Yoruba, Bantu, Swahili, and Somali.

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