Compound meander bends with multiple lobes of maximum curvature are common in actively evolving lowland rivers. Interaction among spatial patterns of mean flow, turbulence, bed morphology, bank failures and channel migration in compound bends is poorly understood. In this paper, acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) measurements of the three-dimensional (3D) flow velocities in a compound bend are examined to evaluate the influence of channel curvature and hydrologic variability on the structure of flow within the bend. Flow structure at various flow stages is related to changes in bed morphology over the study timeframe. Increases in local curvature within the upstream lobe of the bend reduce outer bank velocities at morphologically significant flows, creating a region that protects the bank from high momentum flow and high bed shear stresses. The dimensionless radius of curvature in the upstream lobe is one-third less than that of the downstream lobe, with average bank erosion rates less than half of the erosion rates for the downstream lobe. Higher bank erosion rates within the downstream lobe correspond to the shift in a core of high velocity and bed shear stresses toward the outer bank as flow moves through the two lobes. These erosion patterns provide a mechanism for continued migration of the downstream lobe in the near future. Bed material size distributions within the bend correspond to spatial patterns of bed shear stress magnitudes, indicating that bed material sorting within the bend is governed by bed shear stress. Results suggest that patterns of flow, sediment entrainment, and planform evolution in compound meander bends are more complex than in simple meander bends. Moreover, interactions among local influences on the flow, such as woody debris, local topographic steering, and locally high curvature, tend to cause compound bends to evolve toward increasing planform complexity over time rather than stable configurations. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.