It's no surprise that boat owners prefer Lake Powell. It's a boaters' paradise. Or that given a second choice it would be Flaming Gorge. It's one of Utah's most beautiful boating places. Attitudes are changing, however, when it comes to where the rest of Utah's prime boating waters fall into place.

Four years ago, in response to a survey, boaters overwhelmingly said Strawberry was their third choice - to fish. This year, the No. 3 choice was Deer Creek - to water ski, sail, buzz about on a personal watercraft and fish. Four years ago, Bear Lake was No. 4 and Rockport was No. 10. This year Bear Lake is No. 5 and Rockport No. 6.Some of the changes are a result of boaters' search for uncrowded waters.

People keep buying more boats and PWs, but no one is making more waters to boat on.

"What we have," said Ted Woolley, boating coordinator for the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, "is pretty much it.

"But before we go restricting the number of boats on a particular water, I'd like to see some type of educational program started. If everyone followed the rules and applied simple courtesies, there could be more boats on a water. When a car pulls alongside you on the freeway, you know the person driving has had to pass some type of driving test with respect to laws and simple courtesies. Out on the water you don't know that," said Woolley.

"We've seen positive results through our personal watercraft education program. We've had fewer complaints and accidents. Now I'd like to see something with boats, whether it be through the Internet, home study course or in a classroom situation."

The most common citation issued to boaters focuses on crowding - the speed and proximity law. It reads that no boat shall come closer than 150 feet of another boat, watercraft or person at anything faster than an idling or wakeless speed.

Last year there were 74,300 boats, about 10,000 of them personal watercraft, registered in Utah. Each year the number keeps growing.

This year, in a survey by the DPR, boaters were asked to rate their favorite waters. Lake Powell was No. 1, followed by Flaming Gorge, Deer Creek, Strawberry, Bear Lake, Rockport, Willard Bay, Pineview, Scofield and Utah Lake.

In the 1994 survey, with the same question, the response was Lake Powell, Flaming Gorge, Strawberry, Bear Lake, Willard Bay, Deer Creek, Pineview, Scofield, Utah Lake and Rockport.

In the '94 survey, boaters were also asked to tell what they enjoyed most about boating. Fishing was No. 1, followed by water skiing and touring.

There are some waters in Utah that have room for more boats, said Woolley.

Yuba, which recently reopened after some major renovation, is the most obvious.

Willard Bay, even though it made the top 10 on both lists, has more carrying capacity.

"The problem with Willard is that everyone stays along the northeast side where all of the sandy beaches are. It's a big body of water (9,900 surface acres). If we could build some beaches out along the dikes somewhere, we could get the people spread out more," Woolley added.

Utah Lake is another large water that can take more boating pressure.

But, if boat numbers continue to increase, and boaters fail to practice proper courtesy on the water, then there may come a time when the number of boats on a particular water may be limited.