The Setting

  • William R. Freudenburg
  • Robert Gramling
  • Shirley Laska
  • Kai T. Erikson


New Orleans has long held a special place in America, culturally and economically, but its location in the Louisiana coastal wetlands makes it unique in a geographic sense as well. At the time when Hurricane Katrina made landfall, a third of the nation’s seafood originated in Louisiana’s wetlands, and the complex of ports along the Mississippi, from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, was the focal point of commerce for the nation’s heartland, collectively constituting the nation’s busiest port, by volume. About 20 percent of the nation’s energy supply, mainly from offshore oil and gas platforms, was passing through and being supported from the Louisiana coast. Perhaps the most unusual fact about the city’s setting, though, is that New Orleans is quite unlike most port cities, such as London or New York. Rather than being located on the coast, this key port for the Mississippi River is located well inland, about 120 river miles up from what is currently the river’s main outlet, Southwest Pass.1


Coastal Wetland Port City Natural Levee Deltaic Plain Crescent City 
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Copyright information

© William R. Freudenburg, Robert B. Gramling, Shirley B. Laska and Kai T. Erikson 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • William R. Freudenburg
    • 1
  • Robert Gramling
    • 2
  • Shirley Laska
    • 3
  • Kai T. Erikson
    • 4
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.University of Southwestern LouisianaLafayetteUSA
  3. 3.University of New OrleansNew OrleansUSA
  4. 4.Yale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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