Experimental results of the mean flow field and turbulence characteristics for flow in a model channel bend with a mobile sand bed are presented. Acoustic Doppler velocimeters (ADVs) were used to measure the three components of instantaneous velocities at multiple cross sections in a 135° channel bend for two separate experiments at different stages of clear water scour conditions. With measurements at multiple cross sections through the bend it was possible to map the changes in both the spatial distribution of the mean velocity field and the three Reynolds shear stresses. Turbulent stresses are known to contribute to sediment transport and the three-dimensionality inherent to flow in open channel bends presents a useful case for determining specific relations between three-dimensional turbulence and sediment entrainment and transport. These measurements will also provide the necessary data for validating numerical simulations of turbulent flow and sediment transport. The results show that the magnitude and distribution of three-dimensional Reynolds stresses increase through the bend, with streamwise-cross stream and cross stream-vertical components exceeding the maximum principal Reynolds stress through the bend. The most intriguing observation is that near-bed maximum positive streamwise-cross stream Reynolds stress coincides with the leading edge of the outer bank scour hole (or thalweg), while maximum cross stream-vertical Reynolds stress (in combination with high negative streamwise-cross stream Reynolds stress near the bend apex) coincides with the leading edge of the inner bank bar. Maximum Reynolds stress and average turbulent kinetic energy appear to be greater and more localized over the scour hole before final equilibrium scour is reached. This suggests that the turbulent energy in the flow is higher while the channel bed is developing, and both lower turbulent energy and a broader distribution of turbulent stresses near the bed are required for cessation of particle mobilization and transport. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.