The type species is P. maximus, described by American paleontologist Barnum Brown of the American Museum of Natural History in 1916. A second species, P. blackfeetensis, was described by Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies in 1992. The two species were differentiated mainly by crest size and skull proportions.
Well-known paleontologist Barnum Brown recovered a duckbill skull in 1915 for the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH 5836) from the Red Deer River of Alberta, near Steveville. He described the specimen in 1916 as a new genus, Prosaurolophus. Brown's choice of name comes from a comparison to the genus Saurolophus, which he had described in 1912. Saurolophus had a similar but longer and more spike-like head crest. The skull had a damaged muzzle and was inadvertently reconstructed too long, but better remains were soon found that showed the true shape; one is a nearly complete skeleton and skull, described by William Parks in 1924. Twenty to twenty-five individuals are known for this species, including seven skulls with at least some of the rest of the skeleton.
The second species, P. blackfeetensis, is based on a specimen in the Museum of the Rockies (MOR 454), which was described by another notable paleontologist, Jack Horner. This specimen, and the remains of three or four other individuals, were found in Glacier County, Montana. In this case, the fossils were found in a bonebed of Prosaurolophus remains, which indicates that the animals lived together for at least some time. The bonebed is interpreted as reflecting a group of animals that congregated near a water source during a drought.
Horner differentiated the two species by details of the crest. He interpreted P. blackfeetensis as having a steeper, taller face than P. maximus, with the crest migrating backward toward the eyes during growth. More recent studies have regarded the differences as insufficient to support two species.
Prosaurolophus was a large-headed duckbill; the most complete described specimen has a skull around 0.9 metres (3.0 ft) long on a skeleton about 8.5 metres (28 ft) long. It had a small, stout, triangular crest in front of the eyes; the sides of this crest were concave, forming depressions. The upper arm was relatively short.
When originally described by Brown, Prosaurolophus maximus was known from a skull and jaw. Half of the skull skull was badly weathered at the time of examination, and the level of the parietal was distortedly crushed upwards to the side. The different bones of the skull could be easily defined, with the exception of the parietals and nasal bones. Brown found that the skull of the already described genus Saurolophus is very similar overall to, but also smaller than the skull of P. maximus. A unique feature of a shortened frontal in lambeosaurines is also found in Prosaurolophus, and the other horned hadrosaurines Brachylophosaurus, Maiasaura, and Saurolophus. Although they lack a shorter frontal, the genera Edmontosaurus and Shantungosaurus share with saurolophins an elongated dentary.