The name is believed to mean “land of many waters” in the local Noongar Aboriginal language and was first recorded in a survey in 1869 for a place name in the area, and was previously spelt “Yornanmunging” or “Yernanunging”. In the late 1890s, a siding on the Great Southern Railway called simply “Water Tank” was established here, and the name Yornaning was finally arrived at in 1905 after several renamings. A townsite was gazetted adjacent to the siding in 1907, and maintenance workers for the railway were encouraged to move there. The siding was important as a major water-taking stop for the steam engines passing through – an average of 30 passenger and freight trains passed through per week.
The railway’s decline brought an end to the town’s progress and all that remains today is the wheat silo, community hall and one or two buildings.
In 1993, the Shire of Cuballing obtained the area on which the Yornaning Dam sits, and upgraded it for recreational use. There is a 1.5 kilometre (almost 1 mi) walk trail around the water area, as well as picnic and barbecue facilities.