Ponchatoula is a city in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was approximately 6, 559 at the 2010 census.Ponchatoula calls itself the "Strawberry Capital of the World". The current mayor is Bob Zabbia.Ponchatoula is located at 30.439162, -90.442507 and has an elevation of 26 feet. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.75 square miles, all land. Ponchatoula is located along Interstate 55 and Highway 22, equidistant from New Orleans and Baton Rouge. In the early 1900s, Ponchatoula was one of only two ways to get to New Orleans by land, giving it the title of "Gateway to New Orleans."
Ponchatoula was established as a logging camp in 1820, and incorporated as a town on February 12, 1861. William Akers was the city's first mayor, and is credited with founding the town, establishing it on land he purchased from the federal government in 1832.
Ponchatoula is a name signifying "falling hair" or "hanging hair" or "flowing hair" from the Choctaw Pashi "hair" and itula or itola "to fall" or "to hang" or "flowing". The Indian name Ponchatoula means "flowing hair", arrived at by the Indians as a way of expressing the beauty of the location with much moss hanging from the trees. "Ponche" is an Indian word meaning location, an object, or a person. The name is eponymous with the Ponchatoula Creek, which flows from points north of the city and into the Natalbany River southwest of the city.
Ponchatoula is a small town, but it has several tourist attractions. The old train depot has been converted into the Country Market, a series of booths for local craftsmen and artisans. Next door is the Art Car: a train car which has been turned into an art gallery for local painters. In the same block lived Ole' Hardhide, an alligator credited with "writing" a column in The Ponchatoula Times newspaper. The current Hardhide is the fourth by that name.
Across Highway 22 from Hardhide is the Collinswood School Museum, a former one room schoolhouse which now has local artifacts and quilts on display. Between Collinswood and the tracks stands the Strawberry Train, which is a steam engine and single car which is roped off in such a way that children can safely climb into the engine and car. The Chamber of Commerce's office is located on Highway 22 at the railroad tracks and has information of these and other local sights both in Ponchatoula and in the surrounding area.