The Northshore! That's all you have to say to anyone from New
Orleans or Southeast Louisiana and instantly they know you're referring to the region of Louisiana bordered by Mississippi to the north and east, the Baton Rouge Metro area to the west and of
course Lake Pontchartrain (and Lake Maurepas and the surrounding wetlands) to the south.
Referred to around New Orleans as 'the Northshore', 'the Florida
Parishes', 'across the lake' and even 'God's country', the parishes of Saint Tammany, Tangiphoa, Livingston, Saint Helena and Washington have long held a bit of mystical intrigue for the
residents of New Orleans and 'the Southshore'. The small town atmosphere, the expansive greenery, plus the easy access to shopping and suburban conveniences have made the Northshore
for many, the most desired place to live and work in the entire New Orleans area.
A major attractive feature for families moving to Covington and other towns on the Northshore are the much
newer, larger homes and the much larger (and greener) home lots than can be bought for the same prices in comparable neighborhoods on the Southshore. Residents of the Northshore live considerably closer to
nature than their Southshore counterparts of Metropolitan New Orleans. Whether it's kayaking on the Northshore's numerous rivers, or cycling the 31 mile long Tammany Trace, or simply enjoying the extra green
space of acre sized home lots, Northshore residents enjoy plenty of elbow room without sacrificing any of the
big city conveniences. It's not unusual to find Northshore residents who were born and raised in New Orleans, Metairie, Chalmette or other Southshore communities who have not been back to the south shore of Lake
Pontchartrain in many years!
Higher, Drier and Even Feels a Little Cooler!
Along with the parishes of East Baton Rouge and East and West Feliciana, the Louisiana parishes of the Northshore are still known by many as the Florida Parishes. Colonial Spanish Florida extended west along the
Gulf Coast from present day Florida all the way to the Mississippi River. The only exception to the Spanish
royal claim of 'Florida' east of the Mississippi River was the 'the Southshore' and that part of Louisiana lying south of Lake Pontchartrain to the Gulf of Mexico, which was claimed by France.
The geography of the Northshore gives reason to the Spanish claim. The northshore land is distinctly
different from the 'land' on the south shore. Look at any map of the United States and you can easily see the
ancient coast line of the Gulf of Mexico extending all the way to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. New Orleans and all the land to the south of Lake Pontchartrain is Mississippi River delta sediment.
That's why we have 'coffee grounds' soil on the New Orleans side and much sandier soil on the Northshore.
(Florida sand!) It's why strawberries and azaleas grow so well in towns like Covington and Ponchatoula (strawberries and azaleas love acidic sandy soil) and require a compost of acidic pine needles (from the
Northshore) just to say alive in New Orleans or Metairie.
Even the humidity is a little lower and the summer heat a bit more bearable on the Northshore of Lake
Pontchtrain than on the Southshore. This can be attested to by the popularity of the excursion boats that regularly crossed Lake Pontchartrain on hot summer days in the late 1800s and early 20th century. The boats
carried thousands of over-heated New Orleans citizens across Lake Pontchartrain to towns like Mandeville,
Madisonville and Covington for a little relief from the smothering humidity of the much 'swampier' Southshore.
A ferry service continued to operate carrying passengers from New Orleans to the Northshore until the mid-1930s!
In a nutshell, the Northshore is higher and drier (and the heat a little more bearable during the summer) than New Orleans and the rest of the Southshore. Everyone knows that large parts of New Orleans and the
Southshore are below sea level. However Covington is officially 26 feet above sea level and even low lying
Slidell is 10 feet above sea level. Folsom in hilly north Saint Tammany Parish is a whopping 154 feet above sea level!!! The Spanish took the high ground. The French took the swamps.
When it Rains, It Drains!
Although Slidell, on the northeastern edge of Lake Pontchartrain, has an extensive levee system with massive pumps like New Orleans, Metairie and other communities on the Southshore, most of the towns on the
Northshore such as Covington, Mandeville, Madisonville and especially towns further north and west such as Bogolusa and Hammond all drain naturally.
The higher elevation of the Northshore allows residents to be safer from flooding by storm surge and generally pay less for flood insurance (when it's required) than residents of New Orleans and the Southshore.
If you're concerned about the cost of flood insurance not to mention the actual danger of storm surges from
hurricanes, here is a sample of official town elevations for the Northshore. Remember, parts of New Orleans
are as low as 6 feet BELOW sea level and Metairie has an official elevation of only 3 feet! I don't think they worry much about flood insurance in Folsom!
Covington (Saint Tammany Parish) elevation 26 feet
Mandeville (Saint Tammany Parish) elevation 7 feet
Madisonville (Saint Tammany Parish) elevation 7 feet
Slidell (Saint Tammany Parish) elevation 10 feet
Folsom (Saint Tammany Parish) elevation 154 feet
Hammond (Tangipahoa Parish) elevation 43 feet
Bogolusa (Washington Parish) elevation 95 feet
More Green, Less Mosquitos!
An obvious advantage to the Northshore's higher elevation than New Orleans and the Southshore is less mosquitos. Sure there are mosquitos everywhere in Louisiana but anyone too young to remember summer
evenings in New Orleans before the days of malathione and the 'mosquito spray trucks' only needs to step
outside on a summer night along HWY 90 in far eastern Orleans Parish. They will eat you alive! Not quite as bad on the Northshore. On the Northshore you can make it to from your car to your front door on a summer
evening without loosing a pint of blood, even without the 'mosquito spray trucks'.
Yes, New Orleans is a green city with plenty of ancient oaks as well as lush gardens and lawns. However, the
Northshore still has that small town feel (despite the busy commerce along Hwy 190). There are still plenty of
green woods, farms and fields between the towns of the Northshore despite the rapid growth of the past half century. Finally, the home lots are much larger on the Northshore than on the Southshore which means
plenty of green space between you and your neighbor. And the trees! Pine trees so thick you often can't see the house just 100 feet off the street.
When you cross the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway from the Southshore to the Northshore, you've travelled much further than just the 24 mile length of the bridge. You're now a world apart from where you started!
The Causeway Changed Everything!
With the opening of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in 1956, Covington and
the Northshore became part of the New Orleans Metropolitan Area. The Northshore would never be the same again. For the first time it was feasible to
live on the Northshore and commute to New Orleans for work in well under one hour. Before the opening of the Causeway, it took an hour longer to reach
Covington from New Orleans by completely circling Lake Pontchartrain via old US Highways 90 and 11 to the east or 61 and 51 to the west.
(This was before the interstate system even reached Louisiana!)
With the Causeway cutting the commute time to the Northshore in half, the population of the Northshore exploded! In 1960 the population of St. Tammany
Parish was only 38,673. By 1970 St Tammany's population had increased to 63,585. A second 2-lane span was added to the Causeway in 1969 and by 2015 over 240,000 people called Saint Tammany home.
Still the World's Longest Bridge!
Let's get something straight once and for all. The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the World's Longest Bridge
over Water. Period. The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is 23.86 miles long, every foot a straight shot over water.
In 2011, China opened the Jiaozhou Bay bridge. The bridge is 26.4 miles long and was immediately touted as
the "World's Longest Bridge over Water" by everyone from the Chinese national press to the Guiness Book of World Records.
Here's the catch. The Jiaozhou Bay Bridge is the World's Longest Bridge that CROSSES Water! The Jiaozhou
Bay Bridge spans water for only 16.1 miles of it's official 26.4 mile length. Included in the 26.4 mile figure are
the land bridges on both ends of the bridge and an under-sea tunnel that was part of the same Jiaozhou Bay Bridge Connection Project. Guinness World Records included the entire elevated bridge project both over
land and over water and the tunnel.
To try and clear things up Guiness labeled the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge as the "longest bridge over water
(aggregate)" and the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway as the "longest bridge over water (continuous)" while
insisting on labeling the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge as the "longest". (There are elevated high speed rail lines in China that technically are longer bridges but they are over land!)
Well, no cheating here! The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway crosses water for nearly 8 miles longer than the
Jiaozhou Bay Bridge! By the way, Louisiana's Manchac Swamp Bridge (I-55 from Laplace to Ponchatoula) is
22.8 miles long and it's over water, too! If you want to play that game, it's nearly 40 miles of continuous
driving on a bridge over water (swamps) from Kenner to Pontchatoula via I-10 and I-55. And except for a couple of levees, it's all over water including the LaBranche Wetlands, the Bonnet Carré Spillway and the
Manchac Swamps! How you like dem apples, Mr Guiness?
Although Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Slidell, which suffered large scale damage from wind and flooding, the Northshore overall, including Covington, had far less damage from the storm than New Orleans
and the Southshore.
Much of the Northshore, including Covington, had extensive wind damage from Hurricane Katrina, but with
the absence of large scale flooding (with the exception of Slidell), the Northshore became known as a place of refuge from hurricane storm surges.
Following Hurricane Katrina, Covington, along with the rest of the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, experienced further population growth as many former residents of the New Orleans area lost their homes
and relocated to the Northshore. The Northshore had proved it's advantage as a 'high and drier' place to live
in the event of a major hurricane. The storm events have only added strengh to the Northshore's steady population growth.