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Louisiana, state in the south-central United States; bordered by Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Texas to the west.

Land and climate

Part of the lowland that lies along the entire Gulf coast of the U.S., Louisiana is divided into 3 natural regions: the East and West Gulf Coastal Plains and, between them, the Mississippi Alluvial Plain (often called “the Delta” by Louisianans, although it extends well north of the actual river delta). The Alluvial Plain averages about 40 mi (64 km) in width, but broadens toward the south to form the fertile but low and swampy delta. The Mississippi and other rivers are flanked by a system of levees (earthen walls), both natural and artificial, that prevent high water from flooding the lower backlands away from the river. The East and West Gulf Coastal Plains are composed of low, rolling hills; prairie lands; and steep bluffs toward the north, but along the Gulf are sandy beaches and inland marshes. The Mississippi is Louisiana's most important river. Its rich delta covers about one-third of the state's land area. Other major rivers include the Red, Sabine, Pearl, Ouachita, At-chafalaya, and Calcasieu rivers. The largest of the state's numerous lakes is Lake Pontchartrain, which lies north of New Orleans. Louisiana's climate is semitropical, with long, hot, humid summers and brief, cool winters. Principal cities are New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreve-port.


Service industries account for about two-thirds of the total value of all the goods and services Louisiana produces in a year. A leading producer of petroleum and natural gas, Louisiana is second (after Texas) in mineral production. Soybeans are the leading farm product. Other major crops include rice, sweet potatoes, cotton, sugarcane, and corn. Livestock produced are beef and dairy cattle, chickens, eggs, and hogs.


Louisiana's present constitution was adopted in 1974. The governor serves a 4-year term. The state's Legislature consists of 39 senators and 105 representatives; all serve 4-year terms. In the U.S. Congress, Louisiana is represented by 2 senators and 8 representatives. Louisiana is the only state whose legal system is derived from civil law, based on France's Code Napoléon, instead of on English common law and precedent. Louisiana's local government is based on parishes rather than counties.


Spanish explorers were the first Europeans in the area—already home to about 12,000 Indians—in the 1500s. The region was claimed by France in 1682; parts were later transferred from France to Spain and back again. The U.S. acquired it in the Louisiana Purchase (1803). Louisiana became the 18th state in 1812. The final engagement of the War of 1812, the Battle of New Orleans, was fought here in 1815. In 1861, Louisiana joined the Confederacy; it was readmitted to the Union in 1868. The discovery of large deposits of oil (1901) and natural gas (1916) attracted many new industries to Louisiana, but farmers suffered hard times in the 1920s and 1930s. World War II revived the state's industries. Rapid growth continued until the mid-1980s, when a drop in oil prices launched an economic decline and Louisiana's unemployment rate became the nation's highest.



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21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Liliuokalani, Lydia Kamekeha to Lyon