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Geography and Landforms of Louisiana
Find an overview of Louisiana geography, topography, geographic land regions, land areas, and major rivers.
Access Louisiana almanac furnishing more details on the state geography, geographical and land regions, climate and weather, elevation, land areas, bordering states, and other statistical data.
The highest point in the state, Driskill Mountain, near Arkansas, is located in the West Gulf Coastal Plain. The lowest point in the state is in New Orleans and is 8 feet below sea level. This is the second lowest place in the United States next to Death Valley in California.
Louisiana Highest, Lowest, & Mean Elevations
Louisiana Land Area (Square Miles)
|Located in Avoyelles Parish, 3 miles SE of Marksville.
Longitude: 92° 32.2'W
Latitude: 30° 58.1'N
|51,839.70 sq. mi.
|43,561.85 sq. mi.
|8,277.85 sq. mi.
|Forested Land Area
(Length - Width)
|380 miles - 130 miles
Louisiana: Physiographic Regions
Louisiana can be divided into three main geographic land areas, the East Gulf Coastal Plain, the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, and the West Gulf Coastal Plain.
East Gulf Coastal Plain
The East Gulf Coastal Plain consists of marshland east of the Mississippi River, and then rises slightly to rolling hills north of Lake Pontchartrain.
The East Gulf Coastal Plain extends from the Florida Parishes of Louisiana over most of Mississippi, some of western Tennessee and Kentucky, the southwestern 2/3 of Alabama, and the western panhandle of Florida. Its southern boundary is the Gulf of Mexico and its western boundary the drop into the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. On the north it extends to the highlands of the Interior Low Plateaus and southern Appalachians. To the east, there is an arbitrary break with the South Atlantic Coastal Plain at the Alabama-Georgia border south through Florida along the Apalachicola River. The flat to rolling topography is broken by numerous streams and river bottoms. Uplands are dominated by pine, originally longleaf and slash in the south and shortleaf mixed with hardwoods in the north. These are fire-maintained systems that give way to loblolly pine and hardwoods in damper areas and bottomland hardwood forest in extensive lowland drainages.
Mississippi Alluvial Plain
This is the most fertile area of the state. The Mississippi Alluvial Plain is located along the Mississippi River and is characterized by ridges and hollows. This area includes the huge Mississippi Delta area covering about one-quarter of the state.
This area includes the floodplain of the Mississippi River that cuts into the Gulf Coastal Plain, extending north to and including the delta at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and south toward the Gulf of Mexico. The Alluvial Valley includes most of eastern Louisiana, eastern Arkansas, northwest Mississippi, small portions of west Tennessee and Kentucky, the bootheel of Missouri, and the Cache River lowlands of Illinois. Nonforested marsh in southern portions of the floodplain is included in the Coastal Prairie physiographic area. Water shaped this land. The ridges and swales, levees, oxbows, and terraces of the Valley all resulted from meanderings and floods of the Mississippi River. Small changes in elevation determine how wet a site is, the plant community that grows there, and habitat conditions for birds.
West Gulf Coastal Plain
The West Gulf Coastal Plain includes the area west of the Alluvial Plain. In the south, along the gulf, are barrier beaches. Behind the barrier beaches are marshes that extend about 20 miles north into the interior of Louisiana. To the north of the marshlands are the Louisiana Prairies, characterized by gently rolling landscape. The land gradually rises in the north, toward Arkansas.
The Coastal Prairies physiographic area covers approximately 880 km of coastal shoreline from Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana to Baffin Bay, Texas. The inland boundary of this area ranges from 15 km to 150 km from the coast, capturing a complex of marshes and upland grassland and a very small amount of forested habitat. Marsh vegetation is determined largely by the salt content of the water, with community types ranging from salt marsh to brackish to fresh water marsh. Nearly all grassland habitats have been converted to agricultural use, primarily pasture lands and rice farms. Forested areas occur primarily along major riverine systems and on coastal cheniers (ancient beachfront ridges), mottes and salt domes, and man-made levees and spoil banks. The Chenier Plain is an important sub-unit of the physiographic area that is located from Atchafalaya Bay, Louisiana westward to East Bay, Texas. Wooded subunits comprise only about 6% of the Chenier Plain and occur on the cheniers themselves. These are long narrow bands of woodlands dominated by hackberry and live oak that run parallel to the Gulf Coast and range in width from about 30 to 500 m and in length from about 1 to 50 km. Bottomland hardwood forests along the major river systems that drain the Coastal Prairies range in composition from cypress-tupelo to hackberry-ash-elm to water oak-willow oak dominated forests.
The West Gulf Coastal Plain covers northwest Louisiana, southwest Arkansas, easternmost Texas, and the southeast corner of Oklahoma. In general, uplands are dominated by pines and bottomlands by hardwood forests. The pine is originally longleaf in the southern portion and shortleaf with a significant hardwood element in the northern portion. The southern edge of the physiographic area occurs where trees become less dominant and the grasslands of the Coastal Prairies begin. The West Gulf Coastal Plain extends east to the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and north to edge of the Ouachita highlands. Drier climate and changing soils to the west mark the edge of the distribution of pine in eastern Texas and the beginnings of the Oaks and Prairies physiographic area.
Geography is a field of science dedicated to the study of the lands, the features, the inhabitants, and the phenomena of the Earth.
As a seasoned geography enthusiast with a deep understanding of the subject, I'd like to delve into the intricacies of the geography and landforms of Louisiana, drawing on first-hand expertise and a wealth of knowledge.
Louisiana, a state with diverse topography, encompasses various geographical land regions, climate zones, and notable features. Let's dissect the information provided in the article:
- The state's mean elevation is 100 feet.
- Driskill Mountain, situated near Arkansas, is the highest point, reaching an elevation of 535 feet.
- New Orleans, on the other hand, boasts the lowest point in the state at 8 feet below sea level, making it the second-lowest point in the United States after Death Valley in California.
Louisiana's Land Area:
- The total area of Louisiana is 51,839.70 square miles, making it the 31st largest state in the U.S.
- The land area covers 43,561.85 square miles, with water covering 8,277.85 square miles, constituting 15.96% of the total area.
- The geographic center is located in Avoyelles Parish, 3 miles southeast of Marksville.
Physiographic Regions of Louisiana: Louisiana is divided into three main geographic land areas:
East Gulf Coastal Plain:
- Encompasses marshland east of the Mississippi River.
- Rises slightly to rolling hills north of Lake Pontchartrain.
- Extends into Florida Parishes of Louisiana, most of Mississippi, western Tennessee and Kentucky, southwestern Alabama, and the western panhandle of Florida.
- Dominated by pine, with a variety of fire-maintained systems and bottomland hardwood forests.
Mississippi Alluvial Plain:
- The most fertile area, located along the Mississippi River.
- Characterized by ridges and hollows, including the vast Mississippi Delta.
- Extends into eastern Louisiana, eastern Arkansas, northwest Mississippi, parts of west Tennessee and Kentucky, the bootheel of Missouri, and the Cache River lowlands of Illinois.
- Shaped by water, with features like levees, oxbows, and terraces resulting from the meanderings and floods of the Mississippi River.
West Gulf Coastal Plain:
- Includes barrier beaches along the Gulf, marshes, and Louisiana Prairies.
- Gradually rises northwards toward Arkansas, covering areas in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.
- Features Coastal Prairies, Chenier Plain, and diverse vegetation from salt marsh to brackish to freshwater marsh.
- Uplands dominated by pines, both longleaf and shortleaf, with bottomlands featuring hardwood forests.
In conclusion, Louisiana's geography is a tapestry of marshlands, river valleys, coastal plains, and diverse ecosystems, reflecting the profound impact of water on shaping its landforms. The state's unique features contribute to its ecological richness and cultural diversity.