19 Jan

Confession: there is something that positively irks me about one of Yosemite’s most stunning waterfalls.


The waterfall is beautiful. It drops over 600 feet from a hanging valley that was carved from the granite during Yosemite’s glacial period. The Yosemite Indians called this waterfall “Pohono.” Pohono was an evil spirit who, like many waterfalls, would lure in unwary travelers and drown them. When I consider how many visitors are killed or badly injured near our waterfalls every year, I can’t help but think that maybe they had a point.

As Europeans started moving into Yosemite they bestowed Pohono, and many other landmarks, with new names. The most blatantly insensitive incident is when they named Tenaya Lake after Chief Tenaya, despite his protests that the lake already had name: Pie-we-ack, meaning lake of the shinning rocks.

Several people have claimed the distinction of naming the fall, but it became known as Bridalveil Fall. It bugs me that they took this incredible waterfall and gave it an unoriginal and stupidly flowery name. Calling it “Bridalveil” helpfully distinguishes it from Bridal Veil Falls at Niagara Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls of Franconia Notch in New Hampshire, the Bridal Veil Falls in the Catskills, the Bridal Veil Falls I grew up with in Cuyahoga Valley, Bridal Veil Falls in….well you get the idea. Wikipedia lists 23 other Bridal Veil Falls in the United States alone. It’s a unique waterfall, it deserves a unique name.

I’m all for reviving its original name. I am in happy agreement with Starr King who is quoted in Yosemite Place Names saying “Thank Heaven, the cataract wouldn’t stand this nonsense: and it seemed to be pleading with us to have the ‘Bridal Veil’ folly thrown aside, that it might be known forever by its Indian baptism, ‘Pohono.'” I finally got tired of ranting about it and decided to create a quilt that celebrates its origins.


I made this using the fusible web applique technique I love so much. I used machine stitching to create the texture of the cliff faces and vegetation. For the waterfall I used a sheer scarf I found in a free box and layered it over acrylic paint. When you look at the falls more carefully you can see Pohono and her victims trapped in the waterfall.


A lot of hours went into this quilt. I really enjoyed playing with sheer fabrics and I want to use more of them. Lately I’ve been wanting to expand my quilting skills and learn new techniques. I’m contemplating a few projects that will lead me in that direction, but it may be hard to pull off without buying new materials. Speaking of new materials I did cave and buy fabric for the border. I just didn’t have enough of the hand dyed fabric I used for the landscape, and I didn’t want to finish it with a solid. Maybe someday I’ll get the hang of this.



2 Responses to “Pohono”

  1. Marya January 25, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

    You are amazing Robin! Can’t wait to see this artwork at a live showing!

  2. wanderdrossel February 3, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    Thanks! It’s currently showing in the laundry room if you want to check it out!

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