The Ahwahneechee tribe believed that Bridalveil Fall was home to a vengeful spirit named Pohono which guarded the entrance to the valley, and that those leaving the valley must not look directly into the waterfall lest they be cursed. They also believed that inhaling the mist of Bridalveil Fall would improve one's chances of marriage.
The glaciers that carved Yosemite Valley left many hanging valleys which spawned the waterfalls that pour into the valley. All of the waterways that fed these falls carved the hanging valleys into steep cascades with the exception of Bridalveil Fall. Bridalveil Creek still leaps into the valley from the edge of the precipice, although that edge has moved back into an alcove from the original edge of the valley. While Yosemite Falls seem to also fall into this category, the original course took the Yosemite Creek down a gorge to the west of its current location. The primary source of Bridalveil Falls is Ostrander Lake, some 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) to the south.
In a brisk wind, the falling water is often blown sideways and, when the flow is light, it may not reach the ground directly below. Because of this, the Ahwahneechee Native Americans called this waterfall Pohono, which means Spirit of the Puffing Wind.