Inhabited by 1699, La Balise was one of the oldest French settlements within the current boundaries of Louisiana.
Historically and economically important for overseeing the river, it was rebuilt several times because of hurricane damage. The active delta lobe of the river’s mouth is called the Balize Delta, after the settlement, or the Birdfoot Delta, because of its shape.La Balise was inhabited chiefly by fishermen, river pilots, and their families.
The history and culture that is linked to the Mississippi River Delta is as unique as its geologic landscape. The mouth of the Mississippi River was discovered in 1519 by Alvarez de Pindea of Spain. Robert Cavalier claimed the territory around the mouth of the Mississippi River for France in 1682, and the region grew with importance with its strategic location for trade and security.
In 1699 the French built their first crude fort at La Balize or La Balise, on the Southeast Pass in Pass á Loutre, to control passage on the Mississippi. By 1721, they had built the wooden lighthouse-type structure (la balise means seamark in French) that gave the settlement its name. In 1803, the United States purchased Louisiana from Napoleon. Due to the influx of nutrient-rich soil from the Mississippi River, the delta is a prime area for farming sugar cane, cotton and indigo, crops that were introduced into Louisiana farmlands during the pre-Civil War era. artery. In addition to shipping, local and commercial fisheries continued to expand. The discovery of vast oil and gas deposits brought further economic and environmental changes to the delta. Despite these profound changes, the delta today remains very much rooted in the vibrant cultural and social traditions of its residents.
The Mississippi River Delta is home to more than two million people. The location of the delta at the mouth of the Mississippi River allowed for the area to be a cultural gateway into the United States, and influenced the mix of nationalities that eventually settled in the area over time, forming the diversity of the region.