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Lake Pontchartrain, named for the finance minister of Louis XIV (although originally called 'Okwata' by the native Chocktaw tribes), is a large lake which constitutes New Orleans' border to the north, while the city's southern border was originally the Mississippi River. Part of the Pontchartrain Basin, a 4,700 square mile system of rivers, estuaries, wetlands, marshes, and other associated environments, Lake Pontchartrain is relatively shallow in most areas and has a soft, muddy bottom; although in many portions the depth is greater and allows excellent fishing, the chief value of the Lake is its ecosystem, which is home to a wide variety of plants and animals.

During the middle of the twentieth century, the Lake became terribly polluted through industrial run-off, dredging, and drilling, forcing many lakeside amusement parks and beaches to close. After many years of public action, however, Lake Pontchartrain is set to re-open within ten years, and New Orleans will once again enjoy beaches and swimming along its coast.

The Causeway, a toll bridge which runs over Lake Pontchartrain, connecting the North Shore and New Orleans, is the longest bridge in the world, spanning some 24 miles. It was completed in two phases, the first finishing in 1956 and the second in 1969.

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