About Olsen Barn Meadow
Just a stone’s throw from downtown Chester, the Olsen Barn Meadow is a scenic 107-acre Preserve. It lies within an Audubon-designated Important Bird Area with unique bird sightings year-round.
The North Fork Feather River on the southern boundary of the Preserve provides an idyllic setting for picnicking, fishing, and swimming on warm days. The Olsen Barn, a Plumas County Historic Landmark, is an impressive example of 1800s craftsmanship with its massive hand-hewn timbers.
The Olsen Barn Meadow was protected with tremendous grassroots support.
The main parking area for the Olsen Barn Meadow is a level, mowed lot with signage on the south side of Highway 36, just east of Melissa Avenue and across the street from the Bidwell House. Please respect our neighbors and do not trespass across the lots on Melissa Avenue.
Download a map of the preserve and seasonal activities to use while visiting the property.
Spring and summer are optimal birding seasons for migratory birds like American White Pelicans, Clark’s and Western Grebes, and Greater Sandhill Cranes. In winter look for raptors like Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks.
- Yellow Warbler
- Willow Flycatcher (endangered)
- Greater Sandhill Crane
- Lots of other songbirds
- Bald Eagle
- Barn Owl and/or Great-horned Owl (in the barn!)
Want to learn more about the plants, insects, mammals, and birds of the Olsen Barn Meadow? Read our BioBlitz Blog post
Fishing is popular along the banks of the North Fork Feather River. Use caution on the riverbanks as they can become unstable, especially during rainstorms. Fishing is open on the North Fork Feather River the Saturday preceding Memorial Day and until November 15. A catch and release ethic is strongly encouraged. Follow all CA fishing regulations.
The rolling and mostly flat meadow of the Preserve makes for a scenic and beginner-friendly cross country ski course in winter and early spring. Take laps around the barn or head out to the railroad trail for a longer trip. Looking to rent gear? Chester has an outdoor store.
Cottonwood trees, large willow stands, and golden grasses offer a dazzling display of color. Generally, the best times to view the fall colors are between late September and early November but vary each year.
The Olsen Barn Meadow has big views of the Caribou Wilderness, Mt. Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Lake Almanor. The meadow path to the historic barn makes for a lovely stroll with camera in hand. Continue along the old ranch road to explore the riparian forest and railroad trail along the river. Share your photos with us! #olsenbarnmeadow
The North Fork is clear, cold, and refreshing on a hot summer’s day. The river can also be swift so use caution and only swim if accompanied by other people. The river spots near the Olsen Barn have steep banks. This is NOT a good place to swim with small children.
The Preserve has mowed walking paths and trails for pedestrians and bikes. Please stick to mowed paths in spring and summer as nesting birds may be in the tall grass.
The Olsen Barn was built between 1860 and 1880 by Peter Olsen, a Norwegian immigrant who raised dairy cattle during the Gold Rush. He was known in his day as a master barn builder.
Today, the Olsen Barn, one of the oldest standing barns in Northern California, is a testament to Olsen’s barn building skills. “The Barn is a reminder of earlier times. Inside it is a marvelous example of massive hand-hewn timbers held together with wooden pegs,” Marilyn Morris Quadrio, Director of the Chester-Lake Almanor Museum.
Conditions Update: If there is a large snow berm blocking the entrance to the parking lot, please park in the plowed right of way along Highway 36. Be sure park single file and be careful when pulling out onto the Highway after your visit.
Hours: Open year-round from sunrise to sunset.
Parking: Please park in the gravel area in front of the gates off of Hwy. 36.
Camping: Camping and overnight parking is prohibited.
Motorized Vehicles: No motorized vehicles on the property.
Pets: Dogs are allowed off-leash. Please pick-up after your pet.
Trails: Please keep foot and bike traffic to previously walked paths and mowed trails.
Restrooms: No restrooms on-site, plan ahead accordingly.
Trash: Please pack out your trash. No trash receptacles on-site.
Smoking: Smoking is prohibited.
Fires: Fires are prohibited.
Plants & Wildlife: Please leave plants and wildlife undisturbed. Do not pick wildflowers or remove anything from the property, even rocks which may actually be a part of the historic landmark.
Group events: Permits are required for all organized group events. Please fill out the form below or contact Nils Lunder, Stewardship Manager, at (530) 283-5758 for more information.
Large events: No weddings or other large private events at this time.
Photo by Vanessa Vasquez
Photo by Betty Bishop
Cross Country Skiing
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