Dean M. Chriss
Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

Yonapah, Ahwahnee National Park, California

(Click image to enlarge)

The Merced River drops 317-foot (96.6 m) over Vernal Falls in California's Yosemite National Park. This waterfall was originally named Yonapah (Yan-o-pah), meaning little cloud, by the Ahwahneechee people. It was named Vernal by the Mariposa Battalion led by Lafayette Bunnell, the first non-natives to enter what was then called Ahwahnee. They changed the name of the valley to Yosemite, and gave non-indigenous names to all of the valley's features including this waterfall. The Ahwahneechee were undoubtedly overjoyed with the new names and the takeover of the paradise they called home, but the worst was yet to come.