Purchased October 2015

Olsen Barn and Meadow: The Olsen Barn property is 107 acres of meadow, creekside forest, and wetland adjacent to Lake Almanor at the eastern entrance to the town of Chester, California.

Besides the stunning vistas of Lake Almanor and Lassen Peak, the property is best known for its 130+ year-old historic barn. The Olsen Barn property is both environmentally and culturally significant and has long been treasured by the surrounding community.

Click on the video link to learn more about FRLT's 2015 Save Olsen Barn Campaign and the efforts that made this community conservation project a success.

Click here for Olsen Barn Property Management updates.

Conservation of the Olsen Barn and Meadow

In 2015 Feather River Land Trust partnered with Plumas County, local businesses, individuals and volunteers to purchase this iconic Lake Almanor landscape.

“The story of the Olsen Barn is a story of a beloved place,” says Paul Hardy, FRLT’s founding Executive Director. With its beautiful 130+ year-old barn and significance as a Maidu ancestral homeland, this last remaining vestige of Big Meadows is beloved indeed. Olsen Barn and Meadow offers 107 acres of scenic open space and stunning views of Lassen Peak, as well rich wetlands and wildlife habitat. Barn Owls roost in the rafters; endangered Willow Flycatchers breed in dense willows; Sandhill Cranes nest in the open meadows; and the cottonwood forest supports one of California’s largest densities of Yellow Warblers. Proximity to Chester and access to the North Fork Feather River offer outdoor recreation and a Learning Landscapes for schoolchildren.

In Early 2015, FRLT and the Save Olsen Barn Committee responded to community alarm about the looming sale of the property and potential loss of public access. As Paul says, “We acted, and the community met us there.” By October, FRLT and a community driven by love had raised the  money to protect this special place forever.  Today, we are working with the community—from school kids on up—to create a management plan to care for the land and its wild inhabitants, restore the barn, and enhance people’s relationship to the land for years to come.

The Save Olsen Barn Campaign

Feather River Land Trust and the Save the Olsen Barn committee raised over $800,000 in a short 8 months! The campaign kicked off with a grant of $400,000 from Prop. 50 River Parkway Funding and then the rest came from the generous support of local community and Feather River watershed enthusiasts. The campaign received 541 donations from 439 individual donors from as far away as Alaska and New York. 232 of the donations came from the Chester and Lake Almanor area. Locally based forest industry companies and families (Walker and Collins) were significant donors to the campaign. The Collins family was especially financially supportive of the campaign, starting from the risky down payment portion and a motivational dollar-to-dollar matching program. Several Chester natives who now live elsewhere, and two anonymous donors also made significant gifts.

Art for Conservation sake: A special thank-you to all the artists who donated paintings, photographs, video and digital materials to this campaign. Your stunning images made this successful campaign possible.

Why Conservation? Conserving this unique property forever ensures the preservation of a historic, community landmark and important habitat for a myriad of birds, pollinators, mammals, frogs and fish.

The Olsen Barn and Meadow is also located in close proximity to neighborhoods, schools, and Old Town Chester making it an ideal site for cultural activites and outdoor education.

Recreational Values: FRLT's mission is not just about land conservation—we also hope to inspire future land stewards and help connect people to place.  By securing the 107-acre meadow and North Fork Feather River access we plan to enhance nature-based recreation in the Lake Almanor Basin by permanently protecting the Olsen Barn property. Potential recreational opportunities include birding, kayaking, swimming, fishing, native plant tours, walking paths to picnic spots and of course, spending time in the 130 year old barn.

Willow Flycatcher photo Ryan Burnett
Ecological Values: The property is ecologically important, especially for birds. The property is part of a National Audubon-designated Important Bird Area.

Several pairs of endangered WillowFlycatcher breed on the northern section of the property in willow groves and a pair of threatened Greater Sandhill Cranes are frequently seen. The cottonwood forest along the North Fork, Feather River on the southern boundary supports one of California's highest densities of Yellow Warbler – a California Bird Species of Special Concern. This creekside area also provides important stopover habitat for migratory birds in the fall. Bald Eagle and Osprey are regularly seen perched along the river and the barn is currently home to a pair of breeding Barn Owls high in the rafters. 

Coyote, raccoon, striped skunk, beaver, and river otters are regularly observed on the property and it provides fawning habitat for the Tehama Black-tailed Deer herd.

Cultural Values: The property is of great cultural value. It is a treasured landmark of the town of Chester, serving as its eastern gateway. The barn dates back to the first white settlers to inhabit the area in the late 1800s. The Olsen family was one of the original homesteaders of Chester along with the Stovers and Bidwells.

Olsen barn photo by Jan Davies

The property, along with the greater Chester Meadow, is of cultural significance to the Maidu people. The meadow is the last remaining piece of Big Meadow that supported a high density of Native Americans prior to western colonization.

The panoramic views from the property are spectacular, highlighted by Lassen Peak. 

Protecting the property and preserving its barn will ensure this enduring symbol will remain well into the future.  


Learning Landscape: The Olsen Barn property is in the process of becoming a Learning Landscape site—it is less than ½ mile from both Chester public schools. Chester High School is easily accessed on foot along the Collins Rail Trail. Currently Chester Schools use PG&E land in the meadow adjacent to the property but teachers and classes have been "unofficially" using the property for decades.

We need your help! A strong partnership between the Land Trust, the Lake Almanor Basin community, and people like you who love the Feather River Region is what made this campaign a success. Consider giving a gift today to the Olsen Barn and Meadow stewardship process.  While the property is permenantly protected, FRLT is currently fundraising for infrastructure improvements, recreation planning, signage, trails, and barn stabilization. Here's how you can help:

Or, mail a check: Feather River Land Trust, Attn: Olsen Barn Stewardship, P.O. Box 1826, Quincy, CA 95971 

For more information or to offer help call 530-283-5758.

Thank you.