The southern state of Louisiana lies north of the Gulf of Mexico and along the Mississippi River. The area was originally colonized by the French in the 17th century. Agriculture has been an important economic activity since the 18th century because of Louisiana’s semitropical climate and alluvial soil. In the early 20th century, petroleum and natural gas were discovered, fueling the development of an extraction industry. The industry grew rapidly until the mid-1980s when prices fell significantly. Though not as prominent as it once was, energy is still a vital component of the state economy. Louisiana currently leads the nation in the production of sulfur and salt and ranks high in crude petroleum, natural gas, and natural gas liquids production. Many tourists are drawn to the city of New Orleans because of its unique Cajun culture and famous Mardi Gras celebration.