Landscape perspectives in riverine ecology have been undertaken increasingly in the last 30 years, leading aquatic ecologists to develop a diverse set of approaches for conceptualizing, mapping and understanding ‘riverscapes’. Spatiotemporally explicit perspectives of rivers and their biota nested within the socio-ecological landscape now provide guiding principles and approaches in inland fisheries and watershed management. During the last two decades, scientific literature on riverscapes has increased rapidly, indicating that the term and associated approaches are serving an important purpose in freshwater science and management. We trace the origins and theoretical foundations of riverscape perspectives and approaches and examine trends in the published literature to assess the state of the science and demonstrate how they are being applied to address recent challenges in the management of riverine ecosystems. We focus on approaches for studying and visualizing rivers and streams with remote sensing, modelling and sampling designs that enable pattern detection as seen from above (e.g. river channel, floodplain, and riparian areas) but also into the water itself (e.g. aquatic organisms and the aqueous environment). Key concepts from landscape ecology that are central to riverscape approaches are heterogeneity, scale (resolution, extent and scope) and connectivity (structural and functional), which underpin spatial and temporal aspects of study design, data collection and analysis. Mapping of physical and biological characteristics of rivers and floodplains with high-resolution, spatially intensive techniques improves understanding of the causes and ecological consequences of spatial patterns at multiple scales. This information is crucial for managing river ecosystems, especially for the successful implementation of conservation, restoration and monitoring programs. Recent advances in remote sensing, field-sampling approaches and geospatial technology are making it increasingly feasible to collect high-resolution data over larger scales in space and time. We highlight challenges and opportunities and discuss future avenues of research with emerging tools that can potentially help to overcome obstacles to collecting, analysing and displaying these data. This synthesis is intended to help researchers and resource managers understand and apply these concepts and approaches to address real-world problems in freshwater management.