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Chloe Effron

25 Fascinating Facts About Louisiana

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Chloe Effron

From funeral parades to breakfast beignets, life in Louisiana is all about celebrating the good times. Below, a few things you might not know about the Bayou State. 

The Louisiana Territory was
claimed by Robert Cavelier de La Salle in 1682 and named for King Louis XIV. In French, “La Louisiane” means “Land of Louis.”

2. Tasked with negotiating the purchase of French land on behalf of the U.S. government, James Monroe and Robert Livingston initially offered $5 million and then $10 million for New Orleans and what was then called West Florida. Napoleon countered by offering all of the Louisiana Territory for $15 million—$233 million when adjusted for inflation. Once the government had paid back the loans required to make the purchase, the 828,000-square-mile land mass had cost a total of $23 million—and doubled the size of the U.S. 


3. At one time, the state of Louisiana was divided into counties. These units of local government were replaced in 1807 with 19 parishes, the borders of which generally corresponded to areas that had previously been administered by local churches. Today there are a total of 64 parishes in Louisiana.

Louisiana has plenty to boast about: Breaux Bridge, a city in the St. Martin Parish, is known as the “Crawfish Capital of the World,” Dubach is called the “Dog Trot Capital of the World” for its many breezeway style houses, Rayne is the “Frog Capital of the World,” Mamou is the “Cajun Music Capital of the World,” Gueydan is the “Duck Capital of America,” and Crowley is the “Rice Capital of the World” (though Stuttgart, Arkansas would dispute those last two titles).

5. The town of Rayne, which one Depression-era report described as "the center of the Louisiana frog industry," celebrates with an annual Frog Festival. There's a pageant (for high schoolers), races and jumping competitions (for frogs), and lots and lots of frog legs on offer. The frogs, for their part, show up dressed to impress, in frog-sized tuxes and top hats. 

6. We have a Louisiana-bred chef to thank for the meat monstrosity (or masterpiece, depending on your perspective) known as the Turducken. Paul Prudhomme of Opelousas claims to have invented the three-bird rollup—although meat-stuffed meat dishes have had a place at holiday feasts dating back to at least the 16th century


Phil Romans, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

7. The highest point in the state is located east of Shreveport at Driskill Mountain. It is only 535 feet above sea level. Louisiana’s lowest point (and the second-lowest point in the country) is the city of New Orleans, which is eight feet below sea level.

8. Because of the state’s low elevation, the dead are often laid to rest above ground instead of being buried. Mausoleums replace crypts and markers in cemeteries in New Orleans and other cities. Actor Nicolas Cage has already purchased his mausoleum in New Orleans. It's shaped like a pyramid.

David Ohmer, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

9. The popular phrase “Laissez les bons temps rouler” is a word-for-word translation of “let the good times roll,” and thus not a grammatically correct French saying. (To get the party started in France, they'd tell you to Prenons du bons temps!)

The world’s longest bridge over a body of water is the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. The bridge, which stretches nearly 24 miles, has two parallel spans, the first of which opened in 1956 and the other in 1969. It also has its own website, where drivers can check for traffic and weather updates, view live feeds, and learn what to do in case their car sinks into the lake.

Kristin Brenemen, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

11. The state bird of Louisiana is the Brown Pelican, which was considered endangered from 1970 to 1990. The species had to be reintroduced to the so-called Pelican State from 1968 to 1980 because the pesticide DDT had caused reproductive failure. Recovery efforts have resulted in an estimated 40,000 brown pelicans currently living in Louisiana. The bird has been adopted as the mascot of both a minor league baseball team and a professional basketball team.

12. The first opera performance in the United States was held at the Théâtre de la Rue St. Pierre in New Orleans on May 22, 1796. The production was André Ernest Modeste Grétry’s Sylvain. The theater where the play was staged burned down in 1816, along with the Orléans Theater and other nearby buildings.

13. Louisiana has one of the highest alligator populations in the country, with an estimated two million in the wild and another 300,000 on alligator farms. The hide and raw meat industries collectively bring in around $57 million a year.


14. There are two historical references for the New Orleans nickname “The Big Easy.” The first is written into a 1987 Times-Picayune article, which reported that “The Big Easy” was the name of a music venue (or several venues) where musicians played. Going to play “The Big Easy” became synonymous with going to the city, and the name stuck. The other reference comes from a 1970s columnist named Betty Guillard, who used the phrase to describe the relaxed NOLA lifestyle.

 Roughly 1.4 million people attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans every year. The population of New Orleans for the rest of the year is only slightly more than a quarter of that, at just over 384,000, according to the United States Census Bureau.

16. There are approximately half a million king cakes sold in New Orleans every year around Mardi Gras, with another 50,000 shipped out to customers in other states. The treats are a part of an Epiphany tradition that has been around since at least the 1300s. The official Mardi Gras colors on the cakes served today (purple, green, and gold) signify justice, faith, and power; the person who finds the plastic baby inside is said to have secured good luck for the coming year (but is also tasked with buying next year’s cake).


17. Canal Street, the iconic road where Mardi Gras revelers throw beads and enjoy the lack of open container laws, was named after a project that never happened. An actual canal was supposed to be dug, connecting the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain.

18. The town of Gibsland is home to a Bonnie and Clyde museum, managed by the son of one of the men who killed the infamous duo during a shootout. (Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were killed about eight miles south of Gibsland.)

19. The official state bear of Louisiana, the Louisiana black bear, is endangered. There are about 600 of the bears left, and while some experts say that there is no danger that the bears will be extinct in the next century, most would like to see the population grow substantially.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

20. The capital of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, supposedly got its name (which translates to "red stick") in 1699. French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville wrote that he saw a pole covered in animal blood along a Mississippi River bluff. The pole served as a marker signifying the division of land between the Bayougoula and Houmas Indian tribes.

21. The world records for “the most people twerking simultaneously” (406) and the “most volunteer hours worked” (77,019, by one Viola Cocran) were set in Louisiana. These honors were in no way related.

22. Several popular cocktails were invented in New Orleans, including the Sazerac and the Hurricane. The Sazerac’s claim to fame as the first cocktail ever made has been disputed in recent years, but that did not stop the Louisiana House of Representatives from making it the official cocktail of the city.

23. Despite its boozy history, the official state drink of Louisiana is … milk

24. A Six Flags amusement park in Louisiana that was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina was used as one of the shooting locations for the blockbuster film Jurassic World (2015). The park was also used to shoot scenes for Killer Joe (2011), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), Stolen (2012), and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013).

25. Jazz was born in Louisiana, though the exact year is unknown. Some say it originated in the late 19th century, while others argue that the first jazz song recorded was “Livery Stable Blues” by Nick LaRocca and his Original Dixieland Jazz Band.

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Land Cover CCI, ESA
Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
10 Pirate Landmarks You Can Visit
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Hungering for a scurvy-ridden romp across the seven seas? We’ve mapped out an international journey that will take you through 10 historic places with maritime yarns to unravel. From a rediscovered wreck to the site of real buried treasure, these locales will set your timbers a-shivering.


Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1695, Scottish privateer William Kidd was hired by an English governor to fight pirates in the Indian Ocean. But he made one critical mistake. On January 30, 1698, he captured the Quedagh Merchant, a treasure-laden ship flying a French flag. Since England was at war with France, Kidd believed he had a legal right to seize this ship. However, a nobleman who stood to lose his riches on board complained to the British East India Company, which put out a call for Kidd’s arrest. Unable to prove his innocence, Kidd was convicted and hung by an English court in 1701.

As for the Quedagh Merchant, Kidd had abandoned the vessel and its final resting place remained unknown for centuries. Marine archaeologists discovered the wreck off the coast of Catalina Island in 2007. The site is now a protected marine area where divers can read about its history on underwater plaques.


Kristenlea71 via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Born in Maryland, William Augustus Bowles was a British loyalist during the Revolutionary War. While stationed in Pensacola, Florida, he married into the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and, later, fought on behalf of both nations against Spain in the Gulf of Mexico. Bowles would later establish himself as a pirate and self-appointed representative of the Muscogee Nation, and secured Great Britain's support for establishing an independent Muscogee Republic. In those roles, he attacked numerous Spanish ships and was arrested by the Spanish authorities. He escaped from prison and was on his way back to Florida in the British schooner HMS Fox when it went aground on St. George Island at a site now called Fox Point. A historical marker commemorates the Fox’s wreck.


Howard Pyle, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Contrary to popular belief, most pirates did not bury treasure. (People who steal loot generally want to spend it right away.) In fact, the only pirate known to have stored booty underground was William Kidd. Prior his arrest by the British authorities in 1699, Kidd paid a visit to Gardiner’s Island, a spot between the forks of Long Island. Its owner, John Gardiner, agreed to let Kidd bury some valuables there. Accounts differ about what happened next. Some sources say that Gardiner decided to come clean and tell the colonial governor, Lord Bellomont, about the treasure. Others say that Bellomont learned of its whereabouts directly from Kidd. Either way, the loot was exhumed and taken to Boston. The gold, silver, and other valuable items were worth more than $1 million in today's U.S. dollars. Today, a stone plaque marks the spot.


Ejkastning, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1658, a group of buccaneers landed in Lynn, Massachusetts. Most were arrested, but a pirate named Thomas Veal escaped into the forest. Legend has it that a huge geologic formation now called Dungeon Rock became his hideout. Once a spacious cave, it was reduced to a pile of boulders by an earthquake, entombing Veal and his treasure within.

Almost a century later, a spiritualist named Hiram Marble, who believed Veal's ghost had contacted him from the afterlife, bought Dungeon Rock. He and his son, Edwin, spent their lives digging for the treasure but found nothing. Since then, the site has been incorporated into the Lynn Woods Reservation. A door bars the entryway to the rock's interior, which is open to visitors during certain times of the year. Nearby, you can pay your respects to Edwin Marble at his modestly marked grave.


Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress // Public Domain

Lafitte’s origins are shrouded in mystery, but he arrived in New Orleans around 1806 with his (alleged) brother, Pierre. They organized a fleet of smuggling vessels and conspired with potential business partners at a colleague's blacksmith shop on Bourbon Street. Now a popular bar, the building was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

During the War of 1812, Lafitte offered his ample supplies, experienced sailors, and local knowledge to the American forces under General Andrew Jackson, in exchange for the release of some of Lafitte's men then in prison. At the Battle of New Orleans in 1814-15, Jackson's and Lafitte's forces helped repel the British attack, and the two Lafitte brothers both received federal pardons.



Soon after the Battle of New Orleans, the city's elites grew tired of tolerating the Lafittes. In 1817, Jean Lafitte decamped to Galveston, Texas, with seven ships and a few dozen followers. They established a town called Campeche with its own boarding house, taverns, and courts, while continuing to prey on Spanish ships in the gulf and operating a large slave market. In 1821, the U.S. government ordered them to clear out. Nothing can be said with certainty about Lafitte's post-Galveston exploits. Just like his origins, Jean Lafitte’s fate remains the stuff of speculation.

A relic from his time in Galveston can be found at 1417 Avenue A, where Maison Rouge, Lafitte’s home and fortress, once stood. The grounds are protected by a chain-link fence, which also surrounds the remnants of a second building that was built on top of Maison Rouge’s foundation in 1870. Learn more at Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast, a local attraction which focuses on Lafitte’s life and deeds.


m kasahara, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Blackbeard—whose real name was either Edward Teach, Edward Thatch, or some variant thereof—settled in Bath, North Carolina, for a brief period of quasi-retirement beginning in 1718. His place of residence was reportedly somewhere on Plum Point, an outcropping which cuts into Bath Creek. Despite his track record of plundering and theft, he was constantly getting dinner invitations from curious families. According to regional lore, he paid multiple visits to the Hammock House, an elegant white building thought to be the oldest surviving house in Beaufort, North Carolina. This city is also home to a gigantic Blackbeard statue on U.S. Highway 70. Beaufort’s branch of the North Carolina Maritime Museum contains numerous Blackbeard artifacts.


JialiangGao, Wikimedia Commons // GFDL

In the Age of Sail, pirates operated in nearly all of the world's oceans. Île Sainte-Marie, near Madagascar, was a magnet for pirates back in the 17th and 18th centuries. The island had plentiful fresh fruit to prevent scurvy and convenient natural harbors for safe anchorages. So many crews visited the island regularly that trading posts run by and for pirates became a vital part of the local economy. In its heyday, more than 1000 pirates lived on the island. A great many now lay buried in a cemetery near Ambodifotatra, Île Sainte-Marie’s biggest city. The 30 on-site tombstones of pirates can be identified because they were given etched-in skulls, crossbones, or both.


Daniel Defoe, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Typically cited as the most successful pirate of all time, Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts was born in the Welsh village of Casnewydd-Bach in 1682. In 1719, the crew of the slave ship he worked on elected Roberts, an experienced navigator and seafarer, as their new captain. Roberts really seemed to like the name Royal Fortune, which he gave to multiple ships. He also authored a pirate’s code of conduct for his crew in 1721.

The dreaded “Black Bart” would seize more than 400 ships before he died in battle on February 10, 1722. His hometown acknowledges its native son with a memorial stone on the village green.


Charles Ellms, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Our adventure ends with a visit to a place that once displayed Blackbeard’s severed head [PDF]. North Carolina's governor, Charles Eden, granted the pirate a pardon in exchange for a hefty share of his loot, which upset the colony's wealthy planters. The elites asked Virginia's governor, Alexander Spotswood, to get rid of Blackbeard permanently. Spotswood sent a naval force led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard to engage the pirate's crews in combat. Maynard caught Blackbeard by surprise in North Carolina's Ocracoke Inlet, and a great battle ensued, with Maynard coming out on top. Blackbeard was killed in the fight and Maynard mounted the pirate's head on the bowsprit of his ship on their way back to Virginia. Later it was suspended from a pole at Tindall’s Point, at the confluence of the James and Hampton rivers, where it served for several years as a warning to anyone else with piratical designs. Tindall Point is now called Blackbeard’s Point.


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