About Olsen Barn Meadow
It’s more than a beautiful barn
- 107 acres next to Chester and Lake Almanor
- Purchased in 2015
- Rare or threatened species: Willow Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Sandhill Crane
- Protected for: Community, Open Space, Biodiversity, Water, Recreation, Kids in Nature
- Learning Landscapes Outdoor Classroom site
- Landowner: Feather River Land Trust
Water & Ecology
The property is bound to the south by the North Fork Feather River as it empties into Lake Almanor, after its long journey from headwaters near Lassen Peak. To walk this property is to take in the rush of the river, the bounty it makes possible in the Lake Almanor reservoir, and the majestic mountains from which it originated, all at a glance. The undeveloped meadow and wetlands also filter water, serve as cost-effective natural flood control, and help protect the river and Lake Almanor from sediment and other pollution.
Flora & Fauna
From the Bald Eagle and Osprey that perch along the river to the Barn Owls high in the barn rafters, many species find a seasonal home at Olsen Barn Meadow. Designated by the Audubon Society as part of an Important Bird Area, endangered Willow Flycatchers breed in dense willow groves and open meadows provide seasonal habitat for Sandhill Cranes. The cottonwood forest along the river supports a remarkable density of Yellow Warbler, a California Species of Special Concern. Coyote, raccoon, striped skunk, beaver, and river otters are regularly seen, and the property provides fawning habitat for Black-tailed Deer.
Culture & History
As the last remnant of Big Meadows—which was submerged when Lake Almanor was created for power generation in 1914—this montane meadow is culturally significant to the Mountain Maidu people, who used these lands for generations prior to western colonization. Today this property continues to be important to local Maidu families. The iconic Olsen Barn was built between 1860 and 1880 by Peter Olsen, a Norwegian immigrant who raised dairy cattle here during the Gold Rush. One of the oldest structures in Plumas County, with its massive hand-hewn timbers, the cathedral-like Olsen Barn stands today as a testament to Peter Olsen’s master craftsmanship.
Within a short walk of Chester schools, Olsen Barn Meadow is also an outdoor classroom for FRLT’s Learning Landscapes program—connecting local teachers and students to natural environments and opportunities for place-based learning. The entire property is the classroom, with an inviting outdoor seating area on the south side of the barn.
I’m proud to have helped create some of these spaces for myself, for the community, and for our children and grandchildren.
—Karen Kleven, on leading the campaign to protect Olsen Barn Meadow
This meadow and this barn offer real benefits—cultural, ecological, and educational. This is something really worth preserving.
—Terry Collins, Collins Pine
I gave to FRLT to preserve a view and an area that lifts the hearts and souls of all of us who cross the Chester causeway.
A piece of heaven on earth...
—Sandy Benner, Chester community member
Working together to protect Olsen Barn Meadow
Although privately owned since the 1800s, this landscape—with its sweeping views and historical relevance—has been used by locals for decades, and is an important part of Chester’s identity. In early 2015, in response to community alarm about the looming sale of the property and potential loss of public access, FRLT joined forces with community members and launched a campaign to purchase the property. Watch this short video to learn more about the 2015 Save Olsen Barn Campaign.
Thanks to the tireless effort of many volunteers, and the generosity of over 439 individual donors, over $800,000 was raised in just 8 short months! From a CA Prop 50 grant, to local community members, business owners, and artists, to people miles away who share a love for the Feather River Watershed, a diverse group of passionate donors and volunteers made this possible. Locally based timber companies were also significant donors to the campaign. The Collins family was especially supportive, from making the risky down payment to offering a motivational dollar-to-dollar matching program. Thanks to the efforts of so many, this beautiful landscape is now protected forever as a truly public preserve, to be enjoyed for generations to come.
Our work isn't done yet
We need your ongoing support to care for and improve public access to Olsen Barn Meadow
Stewardship of Olsen Barn Meadow
FRLT’s Stewardship Department, with guidance from local members of the Olsen Barn Management Committee, cares for the Olsen Barn Meadow. We manage the property for multiple benefits including wildlife habitat, native plants and pollinators, historic resources, and public access and school use. Our stewardship crew maintains and improves public access facilities including the parking area, trails, and the outdoor classroom seating area, and also oversees barn restoration projects. FRLT has worked with local youth crews and volunteers to remove hazards and old fencing and to clean up the riverside forest for better walking and fishing access.
Caring for the Olsen Barn Meadow is a collaborative effort and ongoing community involvement is crucial to keep this work happening. Thank you to the Olsen Barn Management Committee for your help and support!
Recreation & Access
Just a stone’s throw from downtown Chester, the Olsen Barn Meadow Preserve is open to the public for low impact recreation. With ample parking right off of Highway 36, the preserve offers a peaceful setting for year-round activities including walking, birding, practicing photography, viewing fall colors, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, and picnicking. With panoramic views of Lassen Peak and Lake Almanor, and a glimpse into the past with one of Northern California’s oldest standing barns, this property is worth a visit in any season.
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As a nationally accredited land trust, we are built to last. We leverage your donations with state, federal, and foundation dollars and strategic partnerships to achieve the greatest possible impact for the lands, waters, and people of the Feather River region. You can count on us to make careful and effective use of your support.
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