Baton Rouge ( BAT-ən ROOZH; from French Bâton-Rouge ‘red stick’) is the capital of the U.S. state of Louisiana. On the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, it is the parish seat of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana’s most populous parish. Since 2020, it has been the 99th-most-populous city in the United States and the second-largest city in Louisiana, after New Orleans. It is the 18th-most-populous state capital. At the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 tabulation, it had a population of 227,470; its consolidated population was 456,781 in 2020. It is the center of the Greater Baton Rouge area, Louisiana’s second-largest metropolitan area, with a population of 870,569 as of 2020, up from 802,484 in 2010.
The Baton Rouge area owes its historical importance to its strategic site upon the Istrouma Bluff, the first natural bluff upriver from the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. This allowed development of a business quarter safe from seasonal flooding. In addition, it built a levee system stretching from the bluff southward to protect the riverfront and low-lying agricultural areas. It is a culturally rich center, with settlement by immigrants from numerous European nations and African peoples brought to North America as slaves or indentured servants. It was ruled by seven different governments: French, British, and Spanish in the colonial era; the Republic of West Florida, as a United States territory and state, Confederate, and United States again since the end of the American Civil War.
Baton Rouge is a major industrial, petrochemical, medical, research, motion picture, and growing technology center of the American South. It is the location of Louisiana State University, the LSU System’s flagship university and the state’s largest institution of higher education. It is also the location of Southern University, the flagship institution of the Southern University System, the nation’s only historically black college system. The Port of Greater Baton Rouge is the 10th-largest in the U.S. by tonnage shipped, and is the farthest upstream Mississippi River port capable of handling Panamax ships. Major corporations participating in the Baton Rouge metropolitan statistical area’s economy include Lamar Advertising Company, BBQGuys, Marucci Sports, Piccadilly Restaurants, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, ExxonMobil, Brown & Root, Shell Chemical Company and Dow Chemical Company.