The Sierra Valley—located approximately 25 miles northwest of Truckee on Highway 89—is part of Sierra County, one of the smallest counties in the state. At an elevation of approximately 5,000 feet, this huge valley is the largest alpine valley in the Sierra Nevada range. Tucked at the base of the eastern slope of the Sierras, communities in the Sierra Valley include Sierraville, Sattley, Calpine and Loyalton.
Known as the valley ranch communities, in the 1850s these towns provided dairy products, hay, and cattle for Truckee, western Sierra County, and the Comstock Mines. This area proved to be one of the finest agricultural regions of California during that time. The lumber industry was also part of the agricultural economy. Sierra Valley timber supplied the Comstock Mines, the Central Pacific Railroad, and the California fruit industry until the early 1900s when there was a decline in the timber demands with the closing of mines in California.
In present day times, much of the population has been devoted to cattle-raising and farming. The mountain valley reflects life as it used to be in much of the west. Amidst century-old barns built by early ranchers, herds of cattle graze on 120,000 acres of valley floor consisting of a grassland and sagebrush ecosystem as well as extensive freshwater marshes. These marshes are also part of a major flyway for migrating birds and therefore provide excellent bird-watching locations.
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