Sierra Valley Preserve

Photo by Andrew Wright/Lighthawkphoto

A birding hotspot in the Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Valley Preserve can be found at the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork of the Feather River. A paradise for birders and nature enthusiasts, Sierra Valley supports the greatest diversity and abundance of birds in the entire Sierra Nevada. We welcome you to explore this unique and dynamic landscape. The Preserve offers the only year-round public access to the wetland and meadow ecosystems of Sierra Valley.

West Entrance: Open Tuesday-Saturday, sunrise to sunset
East Entrance: Open sunrise to sunset year-round

About Sierra Valley Preserve

Map & Directions
Activity Info

The preserve’s 2,586 acres have a rich variety of habitats including montane meadows, dynamic wetland channels, and upland areas of sagebrush scrub, ancient dunes and spring wildflowers.

The Preserve is a key stopover on the Pacific Flyway. Its seasonal and perennial wetlands provide migratory and breeding habitat for sensitive species such as Greater Sandhill Cranes, Black Tern, Redhead, White-faced Ibis, and 200+ pairs of Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

Family-friendly interpretive trails meander through the sagebrush country, meadows, and to the water’s edge (in wet years), a birding platform, and picnic spots where you can take in an amazing 365-degree view of mountains near and far.

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Map & Directions


The Preserve offers year-round public access from two different entry points. The West Entrance has ADA compliant parking, a botanical trail, and views of the Bulson House and other interesting features. Please note the West Entrance is currently closed on Sunday and Monday.  The East Entrance, also know as the Maddalena Property, has a level, but rustic interpretive trail, access to the wetlands and water’s edge (on wet years), and an elevated birding platform. 

West Entrance directions from Highway 70 
Drive south on County Road A23 (Beckwourth-Calpine Road) for 2.7 miles. Look for a large gate and sign on your left (entrance). Enter and park in the designated parking area. A kiosk features a property overview map and highlights. There is a seasonal port-o-pottie.

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East Entrance directions from Highway 70 Beckwourth, CA
Drive south on County Road A24 for 1.75 miles to the wooden corrals on your right. Park in the turn-out/parking area (foot traffic only beyond the gate). The trail to the bird watching platform starts in the corrals. There is a seasonal port-o-pottie.

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Preserve Overview Map

Download a map of the preserve to use while visiting the property.

Activity Info

FRLT’s Preserve offers year-round public access in Sierra Valley for walking, botanizing, nature photography, birding, seasonal boating, and naturalist-led events. The Preserve offers wildlife viewing platforms, interpretive trails, and picnic areas. We are currently in the planning and development stage of more visitor amenities.


If you are a birder, or even just bird-curious, the Sierra Valley Preserve is the place to be! In spring and summer look for songbirds and large numbers of waders and shorebirds. In fall and winter expect to see a high density of raptors. In late winter and early spring migrating waterfowl are common too. The East Entrance of the Preserve, also known as Maddalena Property, has a birding platform with interpretive signs to help you identify birds you may see, and is an eBird hotspot.

  • Spring/Summer
    • American Avocet
    • White-faced Ibis
    • Black-necked Stilt
    • Yellow-headed Blackbird
    • Sage Thrasher
    • Brewers Sparrow
    • Greater Sandhill Crane
    • Osprey
  • Fall/Winter
    • Rough-legged Hawk
    • Northern Harrier
    • Ferruginous Hawk
    • Golden Eagle
    • Bald Eagle
    • Short-eared Owl

Get the Sierra Valley Birder’s Guidebook for a species checklist and a map to good birding hotspots.


The Preserve currently features a ¾ mile interpretive trail from the East Entrance that is a great introduction to Sierra Valley and a casual, easy walk for most people. The Preserve is a great place to stretch your legs and take in 360 degree views en route to other destinations, too. In the near future longer walking options and an expanded trail system will be available on the western side of the Preserve.


Located at the convergence of three geographical regions, Sierra Valley is botanically biodiverse. The interesting terrain may at first glance look like a lot of sage brush but take a closer look in the months of April through June to see flowering bitterbrush, camas, Brown’s peony, sand lilies, Sierra Valley evening primrose, meadow penstemon, irises and more.


Sierra Valley is so interesting! Is it the high desert? Is it a wetland savanna? Are those shorebirds? The Preserve is a great place to get out for big views, unique perspectives, and a landscape like no other. Early mornings and evenings can be chilly but often showcase colorful skies, mist rolling off the water, awesome cloud formations, and mountain silhouettes. Bring a zoom lens for wildlife photography and a macro lens for up-close flower and insect shots. We’d love to see what you capture! Share your photos: #SierraValleyPreserve


Boating the wetland channels of the Middle Fork Feather River is an amazing experience but also a complicated one. Because the wetlands are tremendous habitat for birds and other wildlife, large numbers of kayaks and canoes may impact and disturb breeding and nesting season. If you do choose to boat, we ask that you stick to open water and the larger channels as much as possible. Safe and easy put-in spots are limited. And because Sierra Valley is a working landscape, you may encounter electric fences for seasonal grazing. On the Preserve, the best place to put-in is at the Maddalena corrals near the birding platform (water-level dependent). Bring boat wheels or a strong friend as the walk from the parking area to the put-in is about ⅓ mile. Some people like to do a one-way or round trip to the bridge on A-23 near highway 70 (another put-in and take-out option). Please practice safe boating (including wearing a PFD), have a working communication device, and follow CA guidelines for clean boats to reduce the spread of invasive species. In general, the best months to boat are March-May (depending on precipitation and snowmelt). Have questions? Call our office at (530) 283-5758.

Road biking

Sierra Valley is a big, mostly flat valley with epic views and country roads. Park at the Sierra Valley Preserve East Entrance and head out on a road bike adventure through and around the valley. Be aware that the paved roads of Sierra Valley have little to no shoulder and are frequented by trucks, trailers, and farming equipment. While beautiful, Sierra Valley can be extremely windy and can range from very cold to very hot (sometimes within hours). Always check conditions and be self-supported and prepared for the elements. There are a couple of groups that organize rides annually—take a look online.


Located at the convergence of the Great Basin, Sierra Nevada, and Cascades, Sierra Valley is a giant mountain basin that was once an ancient Pleistocene lake. Because of its unique geography, vast water resources, and natural abundance, Sierra Valley has long been a gathering place of people and cultures. The first known inhabitants of Sierra Valley are the Washoe and Mountain Maidu, who continue to enjoy the beauty and resources of the valley today.

In 1850, African American mountain man Jim Beckwourth encountered Sierra Valley while using tribal trails to scout a new wagon train route across the Sierra Nevada. The historic Jim Beckwourth trail passes through the northern portion of the Preserve. Similar to other working ranches in Sierra Valley, the Preserve has been farmed and ranched since the late 1800s, and portions of the Preserve continue to be sustainably grazed by a local ranching family.

The Feather River Land Trust acquired the 2,586-acre Preserve over more than a decade, working with local landowners and our conservation partners, The Nature Conservancy and the Northern Sierra Partnership.


It takes a community to protect this important place. The Sierra Valley Preserve is a unique landscape with abundant wildlife, plants, and cultural resources—some of which are rare and fragile.

West Entrance Hours: Open Tuesday-Saturday, from sunrise to sunset.

East Entrance Hours: Open year-round from sunrise to sunset.

Camping: Camping and overnight parking is prohibited.

Accessibility: The West Entrance has ADA compliant parking and accessible sections of trail with beautiful views of the wetlands and wildlife habitat. If you have a disability and would like a gate code for ADA access to the parking and trail beyond the West Entrance primary parking lot, call (530) 283-1793.  Have general questions about accessibility and terrain? Call (530) 283-9095 to speak with Jeff Bue, Preserve Manager.

Motorized Vehicles: No motorized vehicles beyond the parking areas.

Pets: Dogs are not permitted at the Sierra Valley Preserve due to sensitive wildlife and livestock.

Trails: Please keep foot traffic to paths and trails. Bikes are not permitted beyond the parking areas.

Smoking: Smoking is prohibited.

Fires: Fires are prohibited.

Group events: Permits are required for all organized group events. Please fill out the form below or contact Jeff Bue, Preserve Manager, at (530) 283-9095.

Large events: No weddings or other large private events at this time.

Preserve Activities


Cross Country Skiing

Interpretive Trail




Road Biking



More Ways to Explore