Lake Charles (French: Lac Charles) is the fifth-largest incorporated city in the U.S. state of Louisiana, located on Lake Charles, Prien Lake, and the Calcasieu River. Founded in 1861 in Calcasieu Parish, it is a major industrial, cultural, and educational center in the southwest region of the state.
As of the 2010 census, the population was 71,993. Lake Charles is the principal city of the Lake Charles Metropolitan Statistical Area, having a population of 202,040. It is the larger principal city of the Lake Charles-Jennings Combined Statistical Area, with a population of 225,235. The 2010 population of the five-parish area of Southwest Louisiana was 292,619.
It is considered a regionally significant center of petrochemical refining, gaming, tourism, and education, being home to McNeese State University and Sowela Technical Community College. Because of the lakes and waterways throughout the city, metropolitan Lake Charles is often referred to as the Lake Area.
On March 7, 1861, Lake Charles was incorporated as the town of Charleston, Louisiana.
Lake Charles was founded by merchant and tradesman Marco Eliche (or Marco de Élitxe) as an outpost. He was a Sephardic Jewish trader of either Basque-Spanish or Venetian-Italian origins. He had arrived in Louisiana after hitchhiking and was invited onto a Spanish vessel due to his determination and loyalty to volunteer and work freely for the Spanish Empire.