A large-scale experimental study has been conducted at the Coriolis Rotating Platform to investigate the dynamics of uni and bi-directional exchange flows along a channel with a trapezoidal cross-section under the influence of background rotation. High-resolution two-dimensional Particle Image Velocimetry and micro-conductivity probes were used to obtain detailed velocity fields and density profiles of the exchange flow generated across the channel under different parametric conditions. Experimental measurements give new insight into the stratified-flow dynamics dependence on the magnitude of Burger number, defined as the ratio of the Rossby radius to the channel width, such that values lower than 0.5 characterize unsteady exchange flows. The measurements highlight the role that both ambient rotation and net-barotropic forcing have on the geostrophic adjustment of the dense outflowing layer and on the corresponding counter-flowing water layer fluxes. The coupled effect of these two parametric conditions largely affects the transverse velocity distribution and, for the largest net-barotropic flow in the upper fresh water layer, leads to the partial blockage of the lower saline outflow. Moreover, an increase in the mixing layer thickness, associated with larger rotation rates, and due the interface dynamics, is observed, with shear-driven interfacial instabilities analysed to highlight the influence of both ambient rotation and net-barotropic forcing.