Louisiana Fun Facts
History and Government
French explorer Robert de LaSalle named Louisiana in honor of King Louis XIV.
Louisiana is the only American state to enter the Union (1812) with a non-English speaking group as its popular majority.
The Louisiana Purchase (1803) eventually formed all or part of 15 U.S. states (Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming).
The city of Natchitoches, formed in 1714, is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase.
Local governmental units in Louisiana are called parishes, not counties like other states
The term parishes comes from church units set up by the Spanish in 1699.
Louisiana has 64 parishes.
Louisiana’s government has operated from five different capital cities throughout its history: New Orleans, Donaldsonville, Opelousas, Shreveport and Baton Rouge.
Baton Rouge was the site of the only American Revolution battle fought outside the original 13 colonies.
Zachary Taylor, who served as U.S. President from 1849 to 1850, is the only American president to have ever resided in Louisiana.
P.B.S. Pinchback, Louisiana’s governor during Reconstruction, was America’s first black governor.
Governor Bobby Jindal is the first governor of Indian-American descent in U.S. history.
Anh “Joseph” Quang Cao of New Orleans was the first Vietnamese-American to serve in Congress (2009 – 2011).
The Old U.S. Mint building in New Orleans is the only American mint facility to have produced both Union and Confederate currency during its tenure.
Geography, Science and Natural History
Louisiana has more than 4,000 miles of navigable waterways and 3,260 square miles of river surfaces, land-locked bays and inland lakes.
Toledo Bend Reservoir is the largest man-made lake in the South and the fifth largest in the U.S.
The Mississippi River exits the U.S. below New Orleans into the Gulf of Mexico. It is 2,350 miles long and it drains 41 percent of the U.S and three Canadian provinces—1.2 million square miles.
The Mississippi River drainage basin is the fourth largest in the world, exceeded only by the watersheds of the Amazon, Congo and Nile rivers.
The exit point of Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River into the Gulf of Mexico is one of the world’s only actively-growing river delta ecosystems.
Louisiana’s highest elevation is Driskill Mountain in Bienville Parish, which peaks at 535 feet above sea level. Louisiana’s lowest elevation is in New Orleans, at 8 feet below sea level.
Thirty percent of the water that runs down the Atchafalaya River is from the Mississippi River.
Bayou Teche runs through four parishes, St. Landry, St. Martin, Iberia, and St. Mary
There are 39 species of crawfish in Louisiana.
Crawfish are decapods and have 10 legs.
One of the most common types of stinging caterpillars in Louisiana is the Buck Moth.
Most of Louisiana has more than 350 active bald eagles nests. Many of the bald eagles nests are in St. Mary and Terrebone parishes.
Spanish moss grows in live oak and bald cypress trees throughout the Louisiana. Spanish moss is in the pineapple family.
The Louisiana State Capitol is the tallest state capitol in the U.S. at 450 feet in height.
The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, with a length of 23.87 miles, is the world’s longest bridge built entirely over water.
The majority of the New Orleans French Quarter is actually Spanish in architecture.
The Upper Pontalba Apartments opened in 1850 on New Orleans’ Jackson Square and are the oldest continuously occupied multi-family apartments in America.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans is the largest fixed domed structure in the world.
The African House at Melrose Plantation near Natchitoches is said to be the only example of Congo architecture in North America.
Nottoway Plantation in White Castle is the largest surviving antebellum plantation in the South.
Upon completion in 1909, the Plaquemine Lock connecting the Mississippi River and Bayou Plaquemine in Iberville Parish had the highest fresh water lift (51 feet) in the U.S.
The designer of the Plaquemine Lock, George Goethals, later gained international distinction as the chief engineer for the design and construction of the Panama Canal.
Sarah Breedlove, a free woman of color and Delta native known professionally as Madam C.J. Walker, used an extremely popular line of hair products to become the first self-made American female millionaire.
Eliza Jane Nicholson, who became publisher of The Times-Picayune in 1876, was the first female publisher of a daily metropolitan newspaper in the United States.
Delta Airlines evolved from a crop dusting operation in Monroe.
Monroe native Joseph Biedenharn was the first bottler of Coca-Cola.
New Orleanian Louis J. Dulfilho Jr. was the first licensed pharmacist in the U.S.
The Domino Sugar refinery near Chalmette is the largest sugar processing facility in North America.
The Steen’s Syrup Mill in Vermilion Parish is the world’s largest syrup plant.
The world’s largest heliport is in St. Mary Parish.
Avery Island’s salt mine was discovered in 1862, making it the oldest in the Western Hemisphere.
The Conrad Rice Mill in New Iberia is the oldest rice mill in the U.S.
The LouAna Foods processing facility in Opelousas is America’s largest independent cooking oil refinery.
Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans is the oldest family-run restaurant in the U.S.
Centenary College, formed in Jackson in 1825 and later moved to Shreveport, is the oldest chartered college west of the Mississippi River.
Southern University in Baton Rouge is the largest predominantly black university in the U.S.
Xavier University in New Orleans is the only predominantly black and Catholic university in the U.S.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is the only university in the U.S. with a swamp on its campus.
The first public schools in Louisiana were established in Pointe Coupee parish in 1808.
The first free public library in Louisiana was founded by Judah Touro in New Orleans in 1824.
The first church in the Louisiana Purchase area was built in 1699 near Bayou Goula by Jesuit Father Paul Du Ru during his travels with French explorer Iberville.
The Madonna Chapel in Bayou Goula, with dimensions of only eight by eight feet, is one of the smallest churches in the U.S.
St. Augustine Catholic Church in Natchitoches Parish is said to be the oldest Catholic Church formed by people of color in the U.S.
Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Opelousas is said to have the largest Catholic congregation of African-Americans in the U.S.
A small chapel honoring St. John Berchmans at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau is the only shrine at the exact location of a confirmed miracle in the U.S.
The Jesuit Spirituality Center at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau was the site of the first Jesuit College in the South (1837).
Arts and Culture
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz.
The Southwest Louisiana prairie is the indigenous home to Cajun and zydeco music.
The first opera performed in the U.S. was in New Orleans in 1796.
Former Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis is better known for his popular recorded rendition of You Are My Sunshine, the second most recognized song in the world.
The ascension of Elvis Presley’s musical career began at The Louisiana Hayride, a recurring radio-broadcast concert series at Shreveport’s downtown Municipal Auditorium from the 1940s to the 1960s. Presley’s first Hayride performance was in 1954.
Other notable musicians who began their careers at The Louisiana Hayride include Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, George Jones, Faron Young, Webb Pierce and Kitty Wells.
Opelousas native Clifton Chenier, the “King of Zydeco,” was the first Creole to receive a Grammy on national television.
Cuisine that is indigenous to Louisiana includes crawfish (a freshwater shellfish resembling a miniature lobster), gumbo (a hearty soup thickened with a roux, a skillet-browned oil and flour) and jambalaya (a rice and meat dish similar to a Spanish paella).
The French name for an alligator is un cocodrie.
The French name for a bald cypress tree is un cipre.
Mardi Gras Indians are groups of African American men and women who parade, chant, and drum on Mardi Gras Day, dressed in elaborate hand-sewn costumes with beadwork and plumes.
A complex blend of French, Spanish, German, African, Irish, and Native American influences created the unique regional culture of South Louisiana.
One of the most significant contributions of Black Creoles in southwest Louisiana is zydeco, known for its blending of French songs and African/Caribbean rhythms.
Isleños in St. Bernard Parish are descended from Canary Islanders who settled in the 1760s, and continue to retain their archaic Spanish dialect and sing décimas, which are narrative songs.
Croatians from the Dalmatian Coast settled in Plaquemines Parish, introduced the oystering industry, and continue to control it.
North Louisiana is populated primarily by English-speaking British Americans and African Americans.
Northeast Louisiana was home to a folk culture based on open-range hogs managed by Catahoula curs, a dog breed developed in the area.
Italians began arriving from Sicily at the turn of the twentieth century. Most settled first in rural agricultural communities, later moved into cities to start small businesses, and soon dominated the food distribution systems.
Louisiana is home to more American Indian tribes than any other southern state. Four federally recognized sovereign nations, as well as 10 tribes recognized by the state of Louisiana and four tribes without official status, enrich our state with their history, culture, and artistic traditions.
Louisiana has the largest Native American population in the eastern United States.
Louisiana is home to diverse immigrant groups. Some have come in successive waves from their home country while others have come more recently. The largest communities hail from Vietnam, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, India, Germany, the United Kingdom, and China.
The Vietnamese are the largest immigrant community in the state with the largest concentration being in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, followed by Baton Rouge.
The pirogue, a small boat usually 14 feet long and light enough to be carried by a single individual was originally a dugout carved from a single log. Today, they are made from cypress planks, marine plywood, fiberglass, or even sheet aluminum.
Haitians brought the shotgun house to Louisiana.
Gumbo melds African, European, and Native American cultures. The word itself is derived from the Bantu word for okra, nkombo. The okra plant, a favorite in Africa, is a Middle Eastern plant brought to America by Portuguese traders. Filé (ground sassafras leaves) is Native American. The origin of gumbo—usually defined as a soup-like dish featuring two or more meats or seafood and served with rice—is often attributed to the French bouillabaisse, but the strong preference for soups in Africa reinforced the tradition.
The courir de Mardi Gras of Cajuns and Creoles in southwest Louisiana is a procession of revelers through the countryside bringing their performance, with them to various homes and requesting a gift in exchange. The Mardi Gras riders seek ingredients for a communal gumbo served at the end of the day.
Predominately Catholic French southern Louisiana has been described as "South of the South" due to the Mediterranean-African roots and plantation past of the region, that make it and New Orleans more akin to societies in the Spanish and French West Indies than the American South.
The rural part of South Louisiana is dominated by the Acadians, or Cajuns, who came from what is now Nova Scotia as petit habitants in the late eighteenth century. However, over time the Cajuns have absorbed and been affected by a wide array of cultures in the area: Spanish, German, Italian, Anglo, Native American, and Slavonian.
Marksville is well known for an Easter tradition known as egg knocking or pocking (paquer).
St. Mary Parish resident Jimmie Wedell was the first aviator to break the 300 mph mark.
The crime spree of noted gangsters Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow was ended by an ambush in Bienville Parish in 1934.
The Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo is the oldest fishing tournament in the U.S.
The Gillis W. Long Center in Carville, a former sugar cane plantation home, was one of only two Hansen’s disease facilities in the U.S. It operated from 1894 to 1996.
An eight-day 1953 bus boycott by black residents in Baton Rouge was the first of its type in the U.S., preceding by two years the more publicized Montgomery, Ala., boycott led by Rosa Parks.
The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, the site of at least 10 deaths due to murder or odd circumstances, is said to be one of the most haunted structures in the U.S.
A marble pole near Logansport near the Louisiana/Texas state line once marked the boundary between the U.S. and the Republic of Texas. This is the only known surviving international boundary marker in the continental U.S.
The family-friendly bike ride that takes cyclers through Lafayette to the Festival Internationale is the La Randonnée du Festival.
The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area is known as America’s Foreign Country.
Hurricane Katrina hit southeastern Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005 causing fearsome destruction. Hurricanes are severe tropical storms that gather heat and energy through contact with warm ocean waters. When hurricanes come onto land, their heavy rain, strong winds and large waves can damage buildings, trees and cars. "Hurricane" comes from the Spanish word hurricane.
Port Hudson State Historic Site commemorates this civil war battlefield and the 48 day siege, the longest in American military history.
Audubon State Historic Site and Oakley House near St. Francisville is where John James Audubon painted many of his “Birds of America” while staying here.
Fort St. Jean Baptiste was founded in 1716, when Sieur Charles Claude Dutisné was sent to Natchitoches with a small company of colonial troops to build and garrison an outpost that would prevent the Spanish forces from advancing across the border of French Louisiane. This site is now a state historic site.
The site of one of the oldest and most archaeologically significant North American civilizations is Poverty Point in West Carroll Parish, near Monroe, where a village among earthen mounds existed 3,500 years ago. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.
El Nuevo Constante is the first historic shipwreck discovered off the Louisiana coast. Careful study of it is both appropriate and fortunate. Archaeologists and historians learned about the ship and the events leading to its loss. They also excavated well-preserved artifacts, many of which are unique. These tell about the ship's construction, its cargo, and life aboard an eighteenth century merchant vessel.
Built on the edge of the Spanish empire, the Los Adaes settlement had both a mission and a fort (presidio). It served as the capital of the Province of Texas for 41 years. Los Adaes was a place of rare cooperation among the Spanish, the French, and the Caddo Indians.