Louisiana is a southeastern U.S. state on the Gulf of Mexico. Its history as a melting pot of French, African, American and French-Canadian cultures is reflected in its Creole and Cajun cultures. The largest city, New Orleans, is known for its colonial-era French Quarter, raucous Mardi Gras festival, jazz music, Renaissance-style St. Louis Cathedral and wartime exhibits at the huge National WWII Museum.
Much of the state’s lands were formed from sediment washed down the Mississippi River, leaving enormous deltas and vast areas of coastal marsh and swamp. These contain a rich southern biota; typical examples include birds such as ibis and egrets. There are also many species of tree frogs, and fish such as sturgeon and paddlefish. In more elevated areas, fire is a natural process in the landscape, and has produced extensive areas of longleaf pine forest and wet savannas. These support an exceptionally large number of plant species, including many species of orchids and carnivorous plants. Louisiana has more Native American tribes than any other southern state, including four that are federally recognized, ten that are state recognized, and four that have not yet received recognition.
Louisiana became a French crown colony in 1731 but was ceded to Spain in 1763 after the French and Indian Wars . (The portion east of the Mississippi came under British control in 1764.) Louisiana reverted to France in 1800 and was sold by Napoleon to the U.S. in 1803. The southern part, known as the territory of Orleans, became the state of Louisiana in 1812.
During the Civil War , Louisiana joined the Confederacy , but New Orleans was captured by Union Adm. David Farragut in April 1862. The state’s economy suffered during Reconstruction ; however, the situation improved at the turn of the 20th century, with the discovery of oil and natural gas and the growth of industry.
Louisiana is a leader in natural gas, salt, petroleum, and sulfur production. Much of the oil and sulfur comes from offshore deposits. The state also produces large crops of sweet potatoes, rice, sugar cane, pecans, soybeans, corn, and cotton. Leading manufactured items include chemicals, processed food, petroleum and coal products, paper, lumber and wood products, transportation equipment, and apparel.
The state has become a popular tourist destination. New Orleans is the major draw, known particularly for its picturesque French Quarter and the annual Mardi Gras celebration , held since 1838.
Other major points of interest include the Superdome in New Orleans , historic plantation homes near Natchitoches and New Iberia, Cajun country in the Mississippi Delta Region, Chalmette National Historic Park, and the state capital at Baton Rouge .
On Aug. 29, 2005, Louisiana was hit by Hurricane Katrina, devastating New Orleans, and killing hundreds elsewhere in the state, particularly in the parishes of Jefferson and St. Bernard. Federal and local officials were widely criticized for their slow and inadequate response to the initial disaster and subsequent recovery programs.
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