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The Lakes of Pontchartrain - Their History and Environments

The Lakes of Pontchartrain

Their History and Environments

By Robert W. Hastings
Paperback : 9781628461688, 319 pages, October 2014

A comprehensive exploration of the fascinating ecology and history of one of the South's most complex and thriving estuaries


A vital and volatile part of the New Orleans landscape and lifestyle, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin actually contains three major bodies of water—Lakes Borgne, Pontchartrain, and Maurepas. These make up the Pontchartrain estuary. Robert W. Hastings provides a thorough examination of the historical and environmental research on the basin, with emphasis on its environmental degradation and the efforts to restore and protect this estuarine system. He also explores the current biological condition of the lakes.

Hastings begins with the geological formation of the lakes and the relationship between Native Americans and the water they referred to as Okwa'ta, the “wide water. ” From the historical period, he describes the forays of French explorer Pierre Le Moyne D'Iberville in 1699 and traces the environmental history of the basin through the development of the New Orleans metropolitan area. Using the lakes for transportation and then recreation, the surrounding population burgeoned, and this growth resulted in severe water pollution and other environmental problems. In the 1980s, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation led a concerted drive to restore the lakes, an ongoing effort that has proved significant.


"Dr. Hastings is a respected authority on Lake Pontchartrain, as well as a devoted conservationist. This book shows him at his best."

- Paul Keddy, author of Water, Earth, Fire: Louisiana's Natural Heritage and Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation

"The Lakes of Pontchartrain is comprehensive, enlightening, and enjoyable. This book outlines the geologic formation of the New Orleans region and southeast Louisiana as its land rises over eons from the sea much like mythical Atlantis. It tells the real story of why French explorers founded New Orleans where it is today. It describes the growth of New Orleans over three centuries and the unintentionally adverse human impacts to the surrounding ecosystem. It covers the recent and some might say miraculous, for Louisiana, environmental recovery of Lake Pontchartrain to swimmable and fishable conditions. It also touches on the ultimate battle of New Orleans, endeavors to Save Our Coast and make the region self-sustaining again. Dr. Hastings has captured much more than the science and history of Pontchartrain; he has also captured its spirit."

- Carlton Dufrechou, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation

"The Lakes of Pontchartrain celebrates both a national treasure and the remarkable efforts that have gone into saving it. Professor Hastings strikes a delightful and uncommon balance between good science and good storytelling. I wish I had written it."

- Mark S. Davis, director of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy