Flow through an experimental model of a U-shaped fuel cell channel is used to investigate the fluid dynamic phenomena that occur within serpentine reactant transport channels of fuel cells. Achieving effective mixing within these channels can significantly improve the performance of the fuel cell and proper understanding and characterization of the underlying fluid dynamics is required. Classes of vortex formation within a U-shaped channel of square cross section are characterized using high-image-density particle image velocimetry. A range of Reynolds numbers, , corresponding to flow rates encountered in a fuel cell operating at low to medium current densities is investigated. The flow fields corresponding to two perpendicular cross sections of the channel are characterized in terms of the instantaneous and time-averaged representations of the velocity, streamline topology, and vorticity contours. The critical Reynolds number necessary for the onset of instability is determined, and the two perpendicular flow planes are compared in terms of absolute and averaged velocity values as well as Reynolds stress correlations. Generally, the flow undergoes a transition to a different regime when two recirculation zones, which originally develop in the U-bend region, merge into one separation region. This transition corresponds to generation of additional vortices in the secondary flow plane.