Updated March 27, 2020

We're all in this together. As we each do our part to protect our community and stop the spread of COVID-19 by staying home and practicing social distancing, public health agencies still recommend getting outside for fresh air and exercise if you are safely able. You can still go outside and enjoy nature in your backyard, your neighborhood, and in parks and trails in your community. (Please do not travel during this time). 

If you are at home during this time, there are several wonderful ways to connect to nature without travelling. Try birding from your windows or backyard, step out to measure the snow and look for animal tracks, or sketch your favorite tree.

For those who are sheltering in place here in Feather River country, we invite you to take advantage of our public preserves, while practicing social distancing.

Social Distancing in Nature: Here's How

Social distancing in nature looks the same as it does when you must visit the grocery store. Public health recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19 include:

1. Access those lands nearest you and don't venture far from your own community. Traveling during this time can spread the virus and put rural gateway communities at risk.

2. Maintain at least 6 to 8 feet of space from others.

3. Don't gather in groups except for household members you currently live with.

4. Don't go out if you or a household member are sick.

5. Be mindful of when and where you park and give yourself extra space between vehicles.

6. Consider taking a drive or changing your plans if you see several other people already using the trails.


The following are a list of FRLT nature preserves in the Feather River Watershed that welcome local visitors, while following public health guidelines. 

Leonhardt Ranch Learning Landscape in Quincy

Spring Creek channel at Leonhardt preserve in Quincy with mountains

A pleasant out-and-back walk of about one and a half miles that meanders through American Valley.  Common sightings include Sandhill Cranes, Canada Geese, and diverse waterfowl and songbirds, with nice views of the surrounding mountains like Spanish Peak and Claremont. Signs along the path developed by Quincy High School students describe potential wildlife sightings. The property is open to the public during non-school hours.

Directions: Park or walk to the Quincy High School tennis courts on Quincy Junction Road, cross the street and look for the entry gate with signs. After the path crosses Boyles Creek, take a right and follow the path along the levee. Dogs are not allowed because of nesting bird habitat. It’s a flat, easy trail but there are no benches available along the trail.

Maddalena Property at Sierra Valley Preserve

View at Maddalena property with birding platform and mountains

The eastern side of the preserve, also known as the Maddalena property, is open to the public. It is the only public access in Sierra Valley. Park near the corrals along A-24 (avoid driving on the mud—you could get stuck!), walk through the corrals and follow signs to the walking trail. It is about a one-mile loop walk or a short, straight trail to the birding platform, which overlooks the wetlands of the Middle Fork Feather River. If there's snow, consider bringing skis or snowshoes.  Interpretive signs along the trail help acquaint the visitor to the history, plants, and wildlife of Sierra Valley. You will find a picnic table near the birding platform and a bench near the trail that provide good viewing of the surrounding mountains and of the wetlands. Birding will begin to be spectacular as the migrating birds return to nest: Sandhill Cranes, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, White-faced Ibis and many more. Once the snow melts and spring fully arrives, look for a beautiful array of wildflowers. Dogs must be on a leash because of wildlife.

Directions from Portola: Follow Highway 70 east to Beckwourth. Just east of Beckwourth, go right (south) on County Road A24 and follow 1.75 miles to the wooden corrals on your right. Park nearby in the pull-out, but avoid mud and standing water if you can. The trail to the bird watching platform starts at the corrals.

Olsen Barn Meadow in Chester

Olsen Barn in winter by Betty Bishop

With tremendous community support, FRLT purchased the Olsen Barn and Meadow in 2015. The property is open to the public for low-impact recreation including walking, birding, photography, botanizing, kite flying, and for fishing access to the North Fork. Presently, recreation could include skiing and snowshoeing until the snow melts. In the spring, summer, and fall there are mowed paths that connect to the parking area at Highway 36. Four benches dispersed throughout the property provide distinct views and enjoyable resting places. Currently the parking area is not plowed and parking is limited to the right of way along Highway 36. Motor vehicle access is prohibited on the property. To access the property, walk from the Highway 36 turnouts or use the Collins Rail-Trail. Please respect private property along Melissa Avenue and do not trespass. 

Directions: Olsen Barn Meadow is on the east side of Chester, across the street from the Bidwell House. There is a good turnout from Highway 36 with ample parking when there isn’t snow. Look for the large ranch-style wooden gate and walk towards the barn.

Mountain Meadows Gateway Preserve near Westwood

Snowy day at Mountain Meadows Gateway preserve

With the help of generous donors, in 2018 FRLT purchased this 8-acre property as a connective land bridge and "gateway" to the north shore of the recently conserved Mountain Meadows Reservoir, owned by Pacific Gas and Electric, with walking access from the town of Westwood. Prior to this purchase, there was limited legal public access to the Mountain Meadows Reservoir. Snow is covering the property at this time. It is a great place to ski and snowshoe and it is also an excellent place to birdwatch with large willow stands and Robbers Creek flowing through the wetland and meadow property. Travel southward from Delwood Street and you will find sweeping vistas of Keddie Ridge, the shoreline of the Mountain Meadows Reservoir, and Lassen Peak. As the newest of the FRLT preserves, we plan to improve the parking area, install benches and signs, and generally make the property more accessible in the next two years.

Directions: To access the property, travel to Westwood. Find Delwood Street and follow it south. After crossing the Railroad Tracks, follow the dirt road approximately ¼ mile south and look for the gate on your right. If the gate is locked, park in front of the gate and walk onto the property. A second gate can be found at the cul-de-sac at the end of Delwood Street. The gates to the property are the ones that are bright silver and newer.

Photos: (1) Leonhardt Ranch by Katie Bagby, (2) Maddalena Property by Liz Fairchild, (3) Olsen Barn Meadow by Betty Bishop, (4) Mountain Meadows Gateway by Nils Lunder.

Friday, March 27, 2020