One-way valves in the lymphatic system form from lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) during embryonic development and are required for efficient tissue drainage. Although fluid flow is thought to guide both valve formation and maintenance, how this occurs at a mechanistic level remains incompletely understood. We built microfluidic devices that reproduce critical aspects of the fluid flow patterns found at sites of valvulogenesis. Using these devices, we observed that LECs replicated aspects of the early steps in valvulogenesis: cells oriented perpendicular to flow in the region of maximum wall shear stress (WSS) and exhibited enhanced nuclear localization of FOXC2, a transcription factor required for valvulogenesis. Further experiments revealed that the cell surface protein E-selectin was required for both of these responses. Our observations suggest that spatial gradients in WSS help to demarcate the locations of valve formation, and implicate E-selectin as a component of a mechanosensory process for detecting WSS gradients.