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Coastlines of the United States, Gulf Coastline
Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, barge traffic, largest ports, barrier islands, port cities
The Gulf of Mexico coastline extends 2,625 km (1,631 mi), from the southern tip of Texas to the southern reaches of Florida. The Spanish and French were the first Europeans to colonize the area. The United States expanded into the region in the early 19th century after purchasing Florida from Spain and Louisiana from the French. In 1845 the United States annexed Texas, which had recently won its independence from Mexico. During the westward expansion of the 19th century, New Orleans, at the mouth of the Mississippi, grew to become the most important port city on the Gulf Coast.
The discovery of large oil fields in Texas in the 1930s and the subsequent development of industry, beginning in the 1940s, spurred the economy of the Gulf Coast. Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. petroleum output comes from an area known as the Gulf Coast Petroleum Province, on the coastal plain between New Orleans, and the mouth of the Rio Grande in Texas. Pipelines carry crude oil from regional and inland oil fields to many port cities. The southeastern portion of the Gulf Coast has become a major supplier of natural gas. In addition, nearly 25,000 oil and gas wells have been dug offshore, on the shallow continental shelf along the coastline.
The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway connects 9 of the 15 largest ports in the United States. This water route, primarily designed to accommodate barge traffic carrying bulk goods, consists of lagoons and canals protected by barrier islands along the Gulf Coast.
Houston, Texas, has become the largest city on the coast, with an economy based largely on oil refining. Its port is one of the busiest in the United States. New Orleans remains a prominent port city, supporting transportation of goods up and down the Mississippi River.
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