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While we wait for this season’s legendary snow to melt off the trails around Truckee, we recommend a visit 50 miles north of Truckee to the beautiful Sierra Valley Preserve, protected by Land Trust partners Feather River Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and the Northern Sierra Partnership.

The 120,000-acre Sierra Valley rivals Lake Tahoe in size and beauty and its wetlands form the headwaters of the Middle Fork Feather River, which contributes to the California State Water Project, a system that provides freshwater for 20 million Californians. The Valley’s seasonal and permanent wetlands support the greatest diversity and abundance of birds in the entire Sierra Nevada (more than 230 species) and are a key stopover on the Pacific Flyway.

The Sierra Valley Preserve includes channels of the Middle Fork and offers a rich variety of habitats, including extensive wetland marshes, open water, montane meadows, and upland areas of sagebrush and bitterbrush scrub, dune habitat, spring wildflowers, and native bunchgrasses. The upland habitats support a diversity of wildlife such as Pronghorn, American Badger, Coyote, Western Meadowlark, Sage Thrasher, and the Sloat and Doyle deer herds. The preserve’s 1,100 acres of seasonal and permanent wetlands and open water provide migratory and breeding habitat for sensitive species like Greater Sandhill Cranes, Black Tern, Redhead, White-faced Ibis, and 200+ pair of Yellow-headed Blackbirds. The property also conserves a rich Native American and agricultural history. With a Land Management Plan to be completed in 2017, the Sierra Valley Preserve will offer exceptional opportunities for paddling the waterways and exploring the land’s ecology, wildlife, and cultural and agricultural heritage. 

Conservation of the Sierra Valley Preserve has been a multi-year effort. In 2003, Feather River Land Trust (FRLT) partnered with The Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Business Council to acquire its first property, a 575-acre parcel in the heart of Sierra Valley owned by rancher Tony Maddalena. Tony continues to lease part of the land for cattle grazing. 

Directions from Truckee:

From Truckee:

  • Head north on Highway 89 for 25 miles to Sierraville.

  • Turn right in Sierraville, continuing north around the Valley on Highway 49 toward Loyalton.

  • Look at your odometer. After 9.7 miles, turn left on Heriot Lane and follow 5 miles to Dyson Lane.

  • Turn left and follow Dyson Lane for 1.7 miles to County Road A24. When Dyson Lane turns left (west), follow A24 north for exactly 2.5 miles to a set of corrals on the left side of the road as it bends north.

  • If you reach Highway 70, you’ve gone too far. Retrace your steps 1.75 miles and park your car near the corrals.

  • The trail to the bird watching platform starts at the corrals.

Greyson Howard