According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.2 square miles (47 km2), of which, 18.1 square miles (47 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (0.44%) is water.
In 1883, commercial and residential lots were created and sold for $375 a piece; and soon the sawing of lumber and clacking of hammers could be heard throughout the area.
As the town began to take shape, new churches, businesses, civic organizations and schools were being established. Cotton farming fueled the economy and in 1900 a second railroad, running north and south, was built through Ruston. This brought even more business and industry to the area and the population continued to provide a foundation for the local economy. By the outbreak of World War I in 1917, Ruston was established as a center for learning, a place of civic pride and as an area of economic prosperity throughout the region.
Ruston, however, continued growing steadily because of the rapid expansion of Louisiana Tech. The city also had its centennial celebration during this decade, and emphasis was placed on revitalizing the historic downtown district. A joint effort between the city and the Louisiana Main Street Program and the Louisiana Department of Historic Preservation brought forth beautification projects to restore the downtown district. More than fifteen buildings have been placed on the National Register and has helped draw the community closer to its roots. The city has a new general aviation airport to serve existing business and industry, and the timber, poultry and cattle industries continue to expand.
There were 7,621 households out of which 26.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.0% were married couples living together, 16.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.3% were non-families. 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.98.
In the city the population consisted of 20.8% under the age of 18, 31.6% from 18 to 24, 21.3% from 25 to 44, 14.9% from 45 to 64, and 11.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24.0 years, far below the state median age of 34.0 years. For every 100 females there were 92.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $23,001, and the median income for a family was $37,394. Males had a median income of $33,408 versus $20,413 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,573. About 22.1% of families and 32.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.1% of those under age 18 and 17.6% of those age 65 or over.
Most cultural activities are offered through Louisiana Tech. There are shops downtown, chain restaurants in the city, and an eight-screen Celebrity Theater. Other university-based opportunities exist at Grambling (6 miles) and Monroe (35 miles). The Louisiana Tech University Arboretum interests many visitors.
Early in 2007, the city initiated a blueprint for future growth and development of the Ruston area. Known as "Ruston 21", the plan will evaluate the assets of the community and the ways to achieve goals. It will look citywide at residential development and neighborhoods, recreation planning, transportation issues, economic development, infrastructure concerns, quality of life, and working collaboratively with Louisiana Tech University.
Each June, Ruston hosts the annual Squire Creek Country Club Peach Festival. The 62nd festival will be held the weekend of June 22–23, 2012.
Until the 1940s, most area peach farming had been done on a small-scale family basis. In 1947, area peach growers organized the Louisiana Fruit Growers Association and held the first festival four years later on June 27–28, 1951. On that occasion, Justin Wilson, the popular south Louisiana chef and Cajun humorist entertained the audience at Howard Auditorium on the Tech campus. Then State SenatorDudley J. LeBlanc of Abbeville in Vermilion Parish, the promoter of the patent medicine known as Hadacol, was invited to crown the first Peach Festival Queen, Ann Colvin of Bernice in Union Parish.
The festival sponsors races of 5K and 1M and a tennis tournament played on the Louisiana Tech courts.